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  • Artist Works with United Nations to Create a Colossal Mural at the Worcester Art Museum

    (WORCESTER, Mass., March 19, 2004)-New York artist Jim Hodges creates a collaborative mural on colossal scale at the Worcester Art Museum combining the unique handwriting and native languages of representatives from member countries of the United Nations.

    This Wall at WAM project, one of a series of mural installations at the Worcester Art Museum, 55 Salisbury St., Worcester, Mass., opens to the public on Thursday, April 15 with an artist talk and reception at 7 p.m. The mural will be on view for about a year.

    Titled “Don't be afraid,” the mural is collaborative in nature and has grown from Hodges' belief that the message of art can cross cultural and temporal barriers in meaningful ways. The mural repeats the phrase “don't be afraid,” handwritten by and in the language of individuals representing member countries of the United Nations. Hodges combined the anonymous handwritten texts into a “drawing” that was commercially printed using technologies for fabricating billboards.

    “The phrase itself, ‘don't be afraid,’ is universally understood as one of inclusion and support,” said Worcester Art Museum's Curator of Contemporary Art Susan Stoops. “At a time when issues of isolationism and difference seem to threaten any sense of solidarity in the world, Hodges seeks to create a monumental drawing with this simple but powerful message.”

    Hodges is committed to creating accessible forms of art that can operate in the emotionally-charged and culturally complex space between the private and the public. Presented on a heroic scale and within the context of human history as told by artists throughout time, Hodges' mural is intended to reach out equally to viewers of all backgrounds and ages, and from art enthusiasts to the uninitiated.

    “In my mind, the unique quality of each participant's penmanship will give the drawing a wonderful range and variety of line and symbolically represents the unique sound of each participant's ‘voice.’ It is my dream to create a ‘global chorus’ with many languages represented, so that not one person entering the Museum and experiencing the work will be excluded,” said Hodges. “Art and artists have often brought awareness to social and cultural conditions, sometimes reinforcing common-held positions and at times opposing these conventions. Despite the specific content of art throughout the ages, one universal message has been expressed, that is, ‘Don't be afraid.’”

    Over the past decade, Hodges (b. 1957) has become a leading voice among his generation of artists. His ability to transform the ordinary into the visually poetic is coupled with his sensitivity to the transient moments and poignant details of life. In works of unadorned simplicity, unabashed beauty, and metaphorical richness, Hodges regularly strives to, as he has said, “attempt to talk about the bigness of things, the wonder and the greatness of all of life.”

    Hodges was born and raised in Spokane, Wash. Today, he lives and works in New York City. Hodges earned a bachelor of fine arts degree from Fort Wright College in Spokane and a master of fine arts from the Pratt Institute in Brooklyn, NY. Hodges has exhibited extensively around the world. Recent solo exhibitions include Jim Hodges at the Tang Teaching Museum and Art Gallery at Skidmore College, Saratoga Springs, NY; Returning, Art Pace, San Antonio, Texas; and Jim Hodges: Constellation of an Ordinary Day at the Jundt Art Museum, Gonzaga University, Spokane, Wash. He has participated in many group exhibitions nationally and internationally since 1988 including this year's The Whitney Biennial at the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York.

    The Wall at WAM, a series of temporary mural projects initiated in 1998, is sited on a second-story, 67-foot expanse in the Museum's Renaissance Court, overlooking permanently installed 6th-century Roman mosaics. Thirteen of the Museum's 36 galleries, representing 50 centuries of world art and culture, flank the Renaissance Court. Located in one of the most public of the Museum's spaces, the contemporary wall project is meant to be encountered from a variety of vantage points, equally accessible to viewers in transit and those lingering to experience it at the balcony level overlooking the Court.

    About the Worcester Art Museum
    The Worcester Art Museum, which opened to the public in 1898, is world-renowned for its 35,000-piece collection of paintings, sculpture, decorative arts, photography, prints, drawings and new media. The works span 5,000 years of art and culture, ranging from ancient Roman mosaics to Colonial silver, Impressionist paintings and contemporary art. Dedicated to the promotion of art and art education, the Museum offers a year-round studio art and art appreciation program that enrolls over 6,000 adult and youth students each year. Public tours are offered Saturdays at 11 a.m. and Sundays at 1 p.m., September through May. Audio tours are also available in English and Spanish.

    Museum hours are Wednesday through Sunday, 11 a.m.-5 p.m., Thursday, 11 a.m.-8 p.m. (evening hours sponsored by Commerce Bank), and Saturday, 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Admission is $8 for adults, $6 for seniors and full-time college students with current ID, and FREE for Members and all youth 17 and under. Admission is also FREE for everyone on Saturday mornings, 10 a.m.-noon (sponsored by The TJX Companies, Inc. and Massachusetts Electric, a National Grid Company). The Museum is located at 55 Salisbury St., Worcester, Mass., easily accessible from the Massachusetts Turnpike (I-90), Route 290 and Route 9. Free parking is available near entrances on Salisbury, Lancaster and Tuckerman streets. For more information, call (508) 799-4406.

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