An Interview with WAM Director Matthias Waschek
What do you think of when you hear the words ‘art’ and ‘Worcester’ in the same sentence? The Worcester Art Museum (WAM) has been an iconic part of the growing Worcester art scene since its opening in 1898. Its dedicated staff wants the community to recognize and share in all that the Worcester art scene has to offer, so over the next few weeks, the New Worcester Spy will present interviews with WAM staff members about their favorite pieces in the museum and why art matters in Worcester.
By Nicholas Clark
The Worcester Art Museum is home to some of the most valuable artwork and historical relics in the city. Many of these pieces grab national attention, as well as the attention of the employees fortunate enough to view them everyday at work – making it harder than ever to choose a favorite piece.
The position of director at one of the fastest-growing and most ambitious art museums in the region is no simple task, nor is it easy to choose just one artifact that stands out over all the rest. However, Worcester Art Museum’s director, Matthias Waschek, was gracious enough to showcase his choice artwork and explain to us why it stood out to him amongst all the other priceless pieces in the galleries.
After years as Head of Academic Programs at the world-renowned Louvre Museum in Paris, the German native arrived at WAM in November of 2011. Since assuming the position of Director, Waschek has worked hard to increase collaboration between the museum and community at large. Many of the goals he had for the museum have now become reality.
Waschek is extremely appreciative of American folk art, as well as more regional artworks. Beyond collecting many well-known and admired foreign pieces, he makes the extra effort to hunt for works of art by local artists, as well.
He explained how he can even be found some days at Worcester’s Lucky’s Café on Grove Street, enjoying the local scene and scouring it for hidden treasures. There he found an artwork that now hangs in his office, dada Convention, 1920 by local Peter S. Wise.
Waschek’s favorite piece, however, is one that resides in the American art gallery. Peaceable Kingdom by Edward Hicks grew to be Waschek’s choice collection during his time as Director at the WAM.
“Improbable, yet beautiful,” Waschek proclaimed, going on to describe how the “vibrant colors” and “playful scenery” catches the attention of kids more so than other paintings in the gallery.
Particularly fond of the human-like attributes given the the animals in the painting, Waschek explained how the painting depicts a fictional but harmonious historical scene. Native Americans can be seen greeting settlers on a shore with friendly animals congregating around angelic beings.
Waschek explained that he loves American folk art specifically because it differs significantly from most other American and European contemporary artworks. The Peaceable Kingdom is a perfect example of American folk art, and a rare one, in fact.
Artist Edward Hicks was a Pennsylvania native born in 1780 whose painting was heavily influenced by his Quaker upbringing. He painted the oil on canvas Peaceable Kingdom in 1833 and became totally obsessed with it. Wanting to perfect the piece, he painted dozens of additional works. Although a great number of these were painted, only a few are available today.
In 1934, the Worcester Art Museum was lucky enough to acquire one of these original copies and has displayed it ever since, drawing viewers from across the country. It wasn’t easy for Matthias Waschek to decide which piece in the museum could be called his favorite, but he showed his ambition and creativity by choosing a work as unique as Peaceable Kingdom.