Matisse on Main Street as museum reproductions go on tour

Community leaders from around the region pause during a tour of the galleries at the Philadelphia Museum of Art. (CONSTANCE MENSH / Philadelphia Museum of Art)

On Friday, in front of the Delaware County Courthouse on Front Street, the Borough of Media will hold a small ceremony celebrating the hanging of Thomas Moran's monumental 1892 painting, Grand Canyon of the Colorado River.

Well, not the real McCoy (or Moran), one of the masterpieces of the Philadelphia Museum of Art's collection. Media's Moran will be a very high-quality reproduction in an elaborate frame, all coated with an anti-graffiti resin.

Pop-up outdoor art installations are coming to town. And not just to Media.

Enabled by a two-year $340,000 grant from the Knight Foundation, before summer's end 61 reproductions of Art Museum works will have been installed in Philadelphia neighborhoods and communities around the region, in the first year of the program.

Media, by way of example, also will get Mary Cassatt's Mother and Child, for a tot lot, and Henry Ossawa Tanner's The Annunciation for the corner of Orange and State Streets. The Japanese Footbridge and the Water Lily Pool, Giverny, by Claude Monet, will go on the north side of State Street in front of the Verizon building, and seven other works will be sprinkled about the town's streets and green spaces.

"This is in essence a community project," museum director Timothy Rub said Thursday at a news conference at the museum. Filling tables in the Great Stair Hall were representatives from Chestnut Hill and Mount Airy, East Passyunk, Media, Newtown, and Haddonfield.

These neighborhoods and communities will receive the first wave of installations over the next few weeks. The artworks will remain in place until Aug. 9, after which they will be taken down and reinstalled in Fishtown and Kensington, Ambler, Wayne, and West Chester. There will be multiple installations in each area, selected collaboratively by local representatives and the Art Museum.

For three days - July 17 to 19 - residents of the first set of neighborhoods and communities will receive free admission to the museum; dates for the second set will be announced when the works are reinstalled in August.

Nicole Chipi, a representative of the Knight Foundation, said the program, dubbed Inside Out, was first established in Detroit six years ago and has reached more than 100 neighborhoods there. It has been so popular, she said, that the state is taking it to other communities around Michigan.

"They love it in Detroit," she said, adding that the hope is to bring the program to all eight cities where the Knight Foundation operates. Akron will launch its program this month, and another city will be announced in June.

"Inside Out connects people to their communities," she said.

In this region, the program has been greeted with enthusiasm.

Van Gogh's Sunflowers will be installed in Chestnut Hill with Peter Paone's Black Sunflowers, a reproduction from the collection of the Woodmere Art Museum. From Chestnut Hill, Sunflowers will move to Ambler in August.

Jeanne Sorg, Ambler's mayor, said pop-up art "is exactly what Ambler is about."

"It's about being outside, being with the community," she said.

But what about the wait? Ambler won't be installing until August.

"We're excited," she said. "It's a great thing to anticipate."

"We're going to blow the doors off," said Liz Wahl Kunzier, who manages events in Ambler.

"Well, not literally," the mayor said.

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