Recent News at Kluge-Ruhe

Kluge-Ruhe Collection unveils one-of-a-kind painted rock • Thursday March 26, 2015

The Kluge-Ruhe Aboriginal Art Collection is unveiling a large painted rock, seven feet high by five and a half feet wide, on March 30 at the Millmont Art Storage facility. The rock has been in storage since it was given to U.Va. by John Kluge in 1997. It will be examined by Kaitlin LaGrasta (Class of 2015), a U.Va. student who is researching depictions of the Rainbow Serpent in artworks in the Kluge-Ruhe Collection for her Distinguished Majors Program in Anthropology. LaGrasta was an intern at the Kluge-Ruhe Collection in 2014 through the Institute for Public History Summer Internship program and took a class on “Australian Aboriginal Art and Culture” taught by Margo Smith, Director of the Kluge-Ruhe Collection.

Examining the rock is major undertaking, involving a team of professional art handlers, a conservator and a photographer supervised by Kluge-Ruhe Collections Manager and Registrar Nicole Wade. “Providing access to this particular work is problematic in that it weighs approximately one ton and is painted on both sides with natural ochres,” said Wade. “We’re fortunate that Kaitlin’s needs dovetailed so well with our own, giving her an opportunity to further her scholarly research, and providing us an opportunity to photograph, rehouse, and assess the work’s overall condition.” LaGrasta received a grant from U.Va. College Council to cover some of the costs of accessing the rock. The Office of the Vice Provost for the Arts also contributed support to this project.

LaGrasta said, “I haven’t had the opportunity to travel to Australia, but the resources provided by the Kluge-Ruhe Collection have allowed me to undertake this project. As an undergraduate student, I’m excited to have the opportunity to participate in original, independent research that not only will prepare me for my professional future, but also will add to the scholarly work on Aboriginal art and support its global appreciation.”

Kluge acquired the painted rock from CAZ Gallery in Los Angeles, where artists Bobby Barrdjarai Nganjmirra (1915–1992) and Thompson Yulidjirri (1930-2009) painted it in 1988. Nganjmirra and Yulidjirri were members of the Kunwinjku language group from the community of Gunbalanya in Western Arnhem Land in northern Australia. The Kluge-Ruhe Collection has many works on bark from this region depicting Rainbow Serpents, ancestral beings associated with the creation of other ancestors and sacred sites. LaGrasta’s research will augment the museum’s understanding and documentation of differing representations of Rainbow Serpents in its collection.

The rock, which has never been publically exhibited, will remain crated until the Kluge-Ruhe Collection has space to accommodate it. “This object is absolutely unique to U.Va.,” says Smith. “The artists came from a long tradition of rock art seen in amazing sites like Injalak Hill near Gunbalanya, but there is no other comparable example in any museum collection in the world.”

Images of the rock will be posted on the Kluge-Ruhe Collection website on March 31.

"New Narratives: Papunya Tjupi Prints with Cicada Press" Opens January 20 • Tuesday January 6, 2015

Isobel Gorey Nambajimba, Kapi Tjukurpa (Water Dreaming) at Watulpunyu, 2014. Image courtesy of Cicada Press.
On January 20th the Kluge-Ruhe Aboriginal Art Collection of U.Va. will open a new exhibition titled New Narratives: Papunya Tjupi Prints with Cicada Press. This selection of fourteen prints is the result of an eight year partnership between Papunya Tjupi, an art center in a remote desert community, and Cicada Press, a print workshop at the University of New South Wales Art & Design in Sydney.

Papunya is a community of particular importance in Australia, best known as the birthplace of the contemporary Western Desert art movement, which launched Aboriginal art into the international art world in the 1970s and 80s. For the first time, desert artists were able to preserve and share their culture in the portable and permanent art form of acrylic on canvas, drawing from the designs and iconography found in customary art forms like ground design, sand drawing, and body painting.
The artists featured in New Narratives are the descendants of the founders of this movement. The partnership between Papunya Tjupi and Cicada Press marks the addition of the new medium of printmaking into Papunya’s art history. Many of the prints are aquatints, an intaglio printmaking technique similar to an etching that allows for a tonal effect when the plate is being engraved.

Martha McDonald Napaltjarri, Untitled, 2009. Image courtesy of Cicada Press.
The medium may have changed, but the reasons for making art have not. One of the artists, Tilau Nangala, paints “so the children can watch me paint and learn, so I can pass on my Dreaming and stories to my grandchildren.” Papunya Tjupi art center continues to be a conduit for the expertise and experience of internationally renowned senior artists to be passed onto the next generation, who make up the current group of over 100 artists, many of whom have never painted before.

A reception will be held on Friday, January 23, 2015 from 5:30 – 7:30 pm to celebrate the opening of New Narratives. In March, Michael Kempson, the master printer at Cicada Press, will visit Charlottesville and give a talk on Thursday, March 26 about the prints and his partnership with Papunya Tjupi. The exhibition will run through Sunday, May 17, 2015.

2014: The Year in Art • Friday December 19, 2014

As the year draws to a close, we are reminded of so many wonderful programs and activities we have undertaken. Here’s a month-to-month recap of the highlights.

January: We began renovations on our new Study Center and Classroom, which opened in March.

February: Aboriginal composer and musician William Barton performed a concert of Didjeridu & Strings with Charlottesville High School Orchestra String Ensemble and played with U.Va.’s McIntire String Quartet at TEDxUVA.

March: Indigenous photographer and curator Nici Cumpston began her month-long Australia Council residency. See our short film about it here.

April: We launched Tots and Dots, our monthly early visual literacy programs for infants and toddlers, introducing young children and their caregivers to basic principles of art followed by a fun hands-on project.

May: Western Albemarle High School participated in Young Art Historians, a program teaching students to use a variety of research methods while investigating objects in the Kluge-Ruhe Collection. The results of YAH research are posted on our website and have been incorporated into exhibition text.

June: We brought Indigenous Australian photographer James Tylor to Charlottesville to attend LOOKbetween, a mentorship program for emerging and early career photographers from around the world.

July: Cameron McCarthy joined us for a celebration of NAIDOC Week with performances of didjeridu and dancing, and we conducted an Aboriginal Flag printmaking activity for all ages.

August: Lauren Maupin returned from six weeks in Australia studying the ways Australian museums educate the public about Indigenous art. Her trip took her to five states and territories and she visited Warlukurlangu Artists in Yuendumu and Buku-Larrnggay Mulka Centre in Yirrkala.

September: Ricardo Idagi taught students in Bill Bennett’s sculpture classes the techniques used in making dari headdresses. The students then used these techniques, which included weaving, cutting feathers and sewing, to create their own sculptural works.

October: Artist Brian Robinson visited Kluge-Ruhe and gave a talk on his print and sculptural projects. His work is part of the Saltwater Country exhibition, at the Embassy of Australia.

November: Enid Wurungmurra, Warren Gurruwiwi and Jennifer Deger attended the screening of Ringtone at the Virginia Film Festival as part of the Indigenous Film Series supported by U.Va. Arts Council. We also screened Drunktown’s Finest with Navajo filmmaker Sydney Freeland and What We Do in the Shadows, which won the Audience Award for Best Narrative Feature.

December: We developed a program on seeing Aboriginal art mindfully and a collaborative painting project for the Darden School’s Executive Education Leadership Program.

We are especially grateful to our partners throughout the year who contributed to the success of these amazing programs and others too numerous to mention: African American Teaching Fellows, Australia Council for the Arts, Australian Government Department of Education, Charlottesville High School, City Clay, the Darden School of Business, the Embassy of Australia, the Fralin Museum of Art, the Jefferson School African American Heritage Center, Harvey Art Projects USA, the International Residence College, the Kluge-Ruhe Advisory Council, LOOK3 Festival of the Photograph, McGuffey Art Center, the McIntire Department of Art, the McIntire Department of Music, the Office of the Vice Provost for the Arts, TEDx Charlottesville, TEDx U.Va., U.Va. Arts Council, Vivien Anderson Gallery, the Virginia Film Festival, and Western Albemarle High School.

Of course, none of this would be possible without your participation and support!

We’ll be closed from December 22 – January 5 taking a much needed break. All of us at Kluge-Ruhe wish you a joyful holiday season and look forward to a new year of art in 2015!


Margo, Nicole, Lauren and Megan

PS – Your tax-deductible gift will enable us to continue providing these wonderful programs in 2015. Please make your gift today here.

Kluge-Ruhe Brings Three Indigenous Films to 2014 Virginia Film Festival • Friday October 10, 2014

The Kluge-Ruhe Collection is pleased to announce three films by Indigenous filmmakers in the 2014 Virginia Film Festival, supported by a grant from U.Va. Arts Council. This year the museum has partnered with the Festival to present an Australian Aboriginal documentary, a Navajo feature-length drama, and a vampire comedy from New Zealand. As part of its ongoing mission to provide opportunities for Indigenous artists to introduce their work to new audiences, Kluge-Ruhe is bringing the filmmakers and cast members from two films to participate in their screenings. Tickets are available at the Virginia Film Festival’s website using the links below.

Still from Ringtone
Ringtone (2014) is a documentary film in which Australian Aboriginal families offer glimpses into their lives and relationships through their choice of cellular ringtones. From ancestral clan songs to 1980s hip hop artists and local gospel tunes, the ringtones of each individual situates them in a world of enduring connection and explores the intrusions and demands brought by mobile phones to a once remote community in northern Australia. The filmmakers Jennifer Deger, Warren Gurruwiwi and Enid Burungulmiwuy Wungungmurra of Miyarrka Media will be present for a post-screening discussion. Ringtone is also the centerpiece of the exhibition Gapuwiyak Calling, which is on view at the American Museum of Natural History in New York. It will screen at U.Va. Newcomb Hall at 6:15 pm on Thursday, November 6.

Still from Drunktown's Finest
Drunktown’s Finest (2014) is written and directed by Sydney Freeland. It is the result of her decision to take up the task of crafting an on-screen story that would accurately represent the variety of lifestyles present on the Navajo reservation she called home. This feature film follows three characters, an adopted Christian girl, a rebellious father-to-be, and a promiscuous transsexual in their efforts to reconcile and escape life on the reservation. Robert Redford acted as executive producer of Drunktown’s Finest, which premiered at Sundance Film Festival. Sydney Freeland will be present for a discussion after the screening, which will take place at Piedmont Virginia Community College at 9:00 pm on Friday, November 7.

Still from What We Do in the Shadows
What We Do in the Shadows (2014) follows the lives of Viago, Deacon, and Vladislav, three roommates who are just trying to get by and overcome life’s obstacles, although for them that includes being immortal vampires who must feast on human blood. The vampires’ struggles with sunlight catastrophes, “hitting the main artery,” and trying to get a sense of their wardrobe without a reflection, are almost as difficult as modern obstacles like paying rent, keeping up with the chore wheel, trying to get into nightclubs, and overcoming roommate conflicts. Written and directed by Taika Waititi and Jemaine Clement (Fight of the Conchords), both of whom are Māori from New Zealand, the film has been called “an orgasm for the funny bone,” especially for mockumentary lovers. It will screen at U.Va. Newcomb Hall at 9:15 pm on Saturday, November 8.

Supported by U.Va. Arts Council and the Embassy of Australia.

Brian Robinson to Visit Kluge-Ruhe for Artist Talk • Monday October 6, 2014

On October 20 the Kluge-Ruhe Aboriginal Art Collection of U.Va. will offer an artist talk by Indigenous Australian artist Brian Robinson (Maluyligal, Wuthathi, Dayak). Robinson’s prints and sculptures combine his Torres Strait Islander heritage with a strong passion for experimentation, both in theoretical approach and medium. He observes that “mythical tales explaining the origins of landforms and all manner of natural phenomena are present throughout all cultures across the globe. Stories of heroic figures, magical powers, and great and ferocious beasts are told and retold time and time again, handed down through countless generations by word of mouth ‘til present day.” Robinson’s work has been collected widely by major institutions and private collectors in Australia and overseas.

Currently his work is included in a group exhibition titled Saltwater Country, which presents new work by sixteen contemporary artists from the state of Queensland. While the term ‘country’ has come to be understood as a word that describes Indigenous Australian connections to land, this exhibition investigates the equally strong cultural connectedness to the sea and the water’s edge. It also captures the distinctive cultural and creative experience of Queensland artists as they reclaim histories, explore their pasts and establish new ways of caring for country and community using art. As part of an international tour, Saltwater Country will run from October 15 – December 17 at the Embassy of Australia in Washington, D.C.
Virginia Rigney, curator of Saltwater Country, will make a brief presentation about the exhibition. Two Torres Strait Islander artists whose work is featured in the exhibition, Jimmy Thaiday and Nino Sabatino, will also be present for questions and comments.

Brian Robinson’s artist talk will begin at 7:00 pm on Monday, October 20th at the Kluge-Ruhe Collection and will be followed by a reception. Reservations are required; please RSVP to 434-244-0234 or

Ricardo Idagi's Exhibition 'Gurari-Saltwater Drinker' Opens • Saturday August 30, 2014

Ricardo Idagi, Barramoney (Til Next Week), 2012. Image courtesy Vivien Anderson Gallery, Melbourne.
The Kluge-Ruhe Collection of U.Va. will host artist Ricardo Idagi, a multimedia sculptor and musician from Melbourne, September 15 – October 4, 2014. His residency and exhibition, sponsored by Australia Council for the Arts, will provide a number of opportunities to meet the artist and learn about his culture and artwork.

Ricardo Idagi is a Meriam man who grew up on Mer (Murray Island) in the Torres Strait, north of mainland Australia. He was encouraged to produce art by two uncles, one of which was Eddie Koiki Mabo, who is famous internationally for winning native title rights to Mer Island in 1993. Idadi took a commercial art course at Cairns Technical and Further Educational Institute and settled in Melbourne in 1997. He initially gained recognition at the exhibition Ilan Pasin (This is our way): Torres Strait Art in 1998 and held his first solo exhibition in 2002. He has been included a number of major exhibitions over the last five years, and has won two prestigious Australian art awards: the Western Australian Indigenous Art Award (2009) and the New Media category of the 28th Telstra National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Art Award (2011). His work is held in the National Gallery of Australia, the National Gallery of Victoria, the Queensland Art Gallery, and the Art Gallery of Western Australia, among others.

The exhibition of Idagi’s artwork at the Kluge-Ruhe Collection, titled Gurari – Saltwater Drinker, brings together works from the last five years that serve as a visual memoir of Mer (Murray Island), Idagi’s home in the Torres Strait. The sculptures are made of a wide variety of materials, from raffia and feathers to beer cans and wrought iron. The works comment on political and social issues facing Torres Strait Islanders today, such as multigenerational alcoholism and the impact of the Anglican mission on the Island. The exhibition also honors the rich cultural heritage of Meriam people and Idagi’s own personal resilience.

Ricardo Idagi’s residency provides the rare opportunity for the community to learn from a leading Indigenous Australian sculptor. He will be present to meet visitors at the final Night at the Museum event of the summer on September 18, when the Kluge-Ruhe Collection throws open its doors to its expansive lawn for local beer, food trucks and live music. Visitors can engage with Idagi’s work in depth at a Gallery Talk on Saturday, September 20th at 10:30 am or at his Artist Talk on Tuesday, September 23 at 7:00 pm.

Idagi will also work with U.Va. students in a number of courses, and is the third resident artist at the Kluge-Ruhe Collection under its prestigious grant from Australia Council for the Arts. The exhibition and residency have been presented in partnership with Vivien Anderson Gallery, Melbourne and the McIntire Department of Art at U.Va.

A full schedule of Idagi’s exhibition and residency is listed below. All events are held at the Kluge-Ruhe Collection.

Opening Reception of Gurari – Saltwater Drinker
4 September, 5:30 – 7:30 pm
Join the Kluge-Ruhe Collection in celebrating the opening of its newest exhibition, Gurari – Saltwater Drinker, a group of mixed media sculptures by Torres Strait Islander artist Ricardo Idagi. Refreshments will be served, and this event is free and open to the public.

Night at the Museum with Ricardo Idagi
18 September, 5:00 – 9:00 pm
Join us for Night at the Museum, your opportunity to explore our exhibitions after hours and enjoy the best food and music in Charlottesville! With food trucks, beer from Devil’s Backbone Brewing Company, and music from local band, Red and the Romantics, this event is not to be missed. For the final Night at the Museum of the summer, a new exhibition Gurari – Saltwater Drinker by Torres Strait Islander artist Ricardo Idagi will be on view, and the artist will be present for the festivities. This event is $5 for nonmembers and free for museum members.

Gallery Talk with Ricardo Idagi
20 September, 10:30 am
Torres Strait Islander artist Ricardo Idagi (Meriam) will give a tour of Gurari – Saltwater Drinker, the exhibition of his work on view at the Kluge-Ruhe Collection. This event is free and open to the public.

Artist Talk with Reception to Follow
23 September, 7:00 pm
Please RSVP by calling 434.244.0234 or emailing
Torres Strait Islander artist Ricardo Idagi (Meriam) will present his work and discuss his art practice as a sculptor and a musician. A small reception with refreshments will follow. This event is free and open to the public, but reservations are required. Please RSVP by calling (434) 244-0234 or emailing

Nici Cumpston film released • Tuesday August 12, 2014

The Kluge-Ruhe Collection has released a film about artist Nici Cumpston (Barkindji), who undertook a residency sponsored by Australia Council in March-April, 2014. Coloring the Landscape shows Nici hand coloring works on paper and talking about her body of work having-been-there in the Kluge-Ruhe gallery. The 8-minute film also depicts Cumpston leading a hand coloring workshop for students at the University of Virginia.

Coloring the Landscape was made by Chris Farina of Rosalia Films, who also made Stars over the Sea, about David Bosun’s residency, and the award-winning documentary, World Peace and Other 4th Grade Achievements.

Last week, Cumpston won the Telstra Work on Paper Award at the 31st National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Art Awards in Darwin, Northern Territory. She has been named a finalist for the prestigious Bowness Photography Prize sponsored by Monash Gallery of Art.

Cumpston is associate curator of Australian art at the Art Gallery of South Australia and the inaugural artistic director of Tarnanthi, an Aboriginal and Torres Straight Islander visual arts festival that will be held in Adelaide in October 2015.

Vote for Kluge-Ruhe! • Saturday August 2, 2014

The Kluge-Ruhe Collection has nominated a Tiwi bark basket as one of Virginia’s Top 10 Endangered Artifacts through a program sponsored by the Virginia Association of Museums (VAM). This eucalyptus bark basket, called a tunga, was made circa 1926 by a Tiwi artist on Bathurst Island in Australia’s Northern Territory. Tiwi people use tungas to collect food and water, and as ceremonial objects.

The Top 10 program, which runs from Aug 4 – 23, raises awareness about the conservation needs of museum collections throughout Virginia and Washington D.C. It also provides an opportunity for the public to participate by voting for a favorite artifact online.

“This tunga is extremely rare,” says Collections Manager Nicole Wade. “We have not found a comparable object of this age in any other museum collection in the United States. Unfortunately, the condition is such that we can’t exhibit it without conservation treatment.”

Although the Top 10 honorees do not receive a monetary reward, museums can use the designation to draw attention to their conservation needs. A bark painting from the Kluge-Ruhe Collection was named to the Top 10 in 2011 and became the focus of a fundraising campaign. Voters can make donations on the Top 10 site to benefit conservation at the museum of their choice.

“We hope everyone in Charlottesville will support our nomination and vote for our tunga,” says Kluge-Ruhe Director Margo Smith. “We’ve also notified Tiwi people at the art centers that loaned work for our current exhibition, We Are Tiwi, and are counting on their votes too.”

Nominations will be reviewed by an independent panel of collections and conservation experts, and Top 10 honorees, as well as a “People’s Choice” honoree, will be announced September 9th. Public votes will be considered by the panel as they make their final selections.

“This is the fourth year of our program, and we are so proud of the results that we are already seeing,” says Jennifer Thomas, executive director of VAM. “Each year we have more public involvement in our online voting, more objects being nominated, and more past honorees being conserved and saved.”

Wish you were here... • Wednesday July 30, 2014

Hello from Australia!
I’ve now travelled around this beautiful continent for four weeks, by plane, train and automobile, as well as boat and gondola! The Australian Government funded this six week excursion so that I could experience this land and its people first-hand and use what I learn to educate museum visitors about Indigenous Australian art and culture. I’ve driven over 1600 miles and have met over 70 individuals, from senior curators at museums like the National Gallery of Australia to Indigenous artists at remote art centers like Warlukurlangu Artists. I can’t begin to explain how this trip has changed me personally and professionally, but two notions have continued to surface throughout my time here. First, the Kluge-Ruhe Collection has a wide and prominent reputation here and the people for whom we advocate are proud of our existence and appreciative of the work we do. The second is that Indigenous Australian art is a bit like the Grand Canyon: it has been formed over thousands of years and yet is contemporary and dynamic, there is no end to its irresistible visual impact or the intensity of its importance, and those who have experienced it feel that everyone should explore it at some point in their lives.

Yesterday I arrived at an art center called Buku-Larrnggay Mulka Center, from which many of the bark paintings in the Kluge-Ruhe Collection originate. I will be learning about Yolngu culture and discovering how the art center functions. I am so grateful to my colleagues at Kluge-Ruhe and the wider art community for supporting me in this endeavor, and I look forward to bringing back many ideas and memories when I return.

Yours, Lauren

NAIDOC Week Celebration July 6-13 • Tuesday July 1, 2014

The Kluge-Ruhe Aboriginal Art Collection will observe NAIDOC Week July 6-13. NAIDOC Week is an annual celebration of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures and an opportunity to recognize the contributions of Indigenous Australians in various fields.

The Kluge-Ruhe Collection will fly the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander flags throughout the week. On Friday, July 11 there will be a drop-in family art activity from 10:30 am to noon. Participants will learn about the printmaking process and the significance of the Aboriginal flag while creating their own woodblock print to take home. Aboriginal musician Cameron McCarthy will demonstrate the didjeridu and other musical instruments beginning at 1 pm.

On Saturday, July 12, the Kluge-Ruhe Collection will host a flag-raising ceremony at 10 am followed by a free, guided tour of the exhibitions Art and Country and We Are Tiwi. Cameron will provide a program of didjeridu and Aboriginal instruments at 11:30 am. All NAIDOC Week programs are free and open to the public.

Cameron McCarthy is a descendant of the Kuku-Yalanji people on his mother’s side and the Mbabarum, Mamu and Yidinji people on his father’s side. He is an accomplished musician and dancer, having performed with the Naroo (Ngaru) Dancers in Sydney, the Naringeri Narunga Dreaming Dance Group at Ayers Rock Resort in Northern Territory and the Tjapukai Dancers at the Tjapukai Aboriginal Cultural Park in Cairns, North Queensland. Cameron relocated to New York in 2001 where he has been performing as a freelance artist and has established himself as a didjeridu player, dancer, public speaker and artist. He is a Cultural Affairs Officer for the Australian Consulate General in New York.

For more information please contact the Kluge-Ruhe Collection at 434 244-0234.

Photographer James Tylor Visits Kluge-Ruhe for LOOKBetween • Thursday May 22, 2014

James Tylor, Rice and Sugar, 2013, becquerel daguerreotype
In June the Kluge-Ruhe Collection of the University of Virginia will host artist James Tylor, an Australian photographer specializing in 19th century photographic techniques. His visit will provide several opportunities to meet the artist and hear about his culture and art practice.

Of Aboriginal, European and Maori descent, Tylor uses daguerreotype and wet plate photographic processes to explore complex issues of identity and cultural representation. His investigations of Australia’s colonial past and his own heritage have prompted Tylor to fabricate objects and settings that become the subjects of his photographs.

Tylor says, “I try to highlight the less talked about parts of Australia’s history in my photography, such as the conflict between early European settlers and the Aboriginal Australians, as well as the impact that colonization has had on Australia and its first people.”

Sponsored by the Kluge-Ruhe Collection and the Embassy of Australia, Tylor will participate in LOOKbetween, an immersive mentorship program for emerging and early career photographers from around the world. An anchor event of the LOOK3 Festival of the Photograph, LOOKbetween provides a forum for in-depth exploration of photographic practice through presentations, discussions, collaborative projects, and collegial critique. During his stay, Tylor will give two talks about his art practice, one on June 12th at the Kluge-Ruhe Collection and one co-sponsored by the Camera Heritage Museum at the Staunton Public Library on June 17th.

Kluge-Ruhe Participates in Give 4 Good • Friday May 2, 2014

On Tuesday May 6, the Kluge-Ruhe Aboriginal Art Collection is participating in Charlottesville’s first day of giving!

Give 4 Good challenges you to give where you live. The Charlottesville Area Community Foundation has organized a 24-hour online giving day when more than $32,000 in matching gifts and cash prizes will amplify charitable contributions to local non-profits. To learn more, visit the Give4Good FAQs.

We invite you to support the Kluge-Ruhe Collection on May 6th by making a tax-deductible donation between 12:01 am and 11:59 pm EST.

Use this link to donate. Your donation of $25 or more will help us win matching gifts.

Want to know what your money will be used for? Your donations go to supporting our vibrant artist residency program! Click here to view a film that documents the benefits of our artist residencies for our community and U.Va. students, featuring Torres Strait Islander artist David Bosun.

Artist and Curator Nici Cumpston Visits Kluge-Ruhe for Residency • Monday March 10, 2014

The Kluge-Ruhe Aboriginal Art Collection of U.Va. will host Nici Cumpston (b. 1963), a Barkindji photographer, painter and curator from Adelaide, Australia. Her residency, sponsored by Australia Council for the Arts, will provide a variety of enriching, interdisciplinary opportunities to meet the artist and learn about her art and curatorial practice.

Nici Cumpston’s artworks are primarily landscapes, in which she photographs spiritually and culturally significant places with a medium format film camera, prints them in black and white on canvas, and hand-colors them with acrylic, watercolor, and pencil. Her first job as a photographer was for the South Australian Police Department, where she processed and printed crime scene, accident investigation, and forensic autopsy film. Cumpston continues to use photography as “evidence” in her personal art practice, as the works in her exhibition having-been-there provide proof of Aboriginal occupation of land prior to European settlement.

Museum Director Margo Smith said, “We welcome Nici’s residency and her insights both as a practicing artist and a curator of major exhibitions of Indigenous Australian art.” As the Associate Curator of Australian Paintings, Sculpture and Indigenous Art at the Art Gallery of South Australia in Adelaide, Cumpston has organized many significant exhibitions including Heartland and Desert Country, which has toured Australia since 2010. She holds a BA in Visual Arts from the University of South Australia, and her artwork is held in esteemed private and public collections, including the National Gallery of Australia, the National Gallery of Victoria, the Queensland Art Gallery, and the Parliament House Collection. Most recently she was awarded the 2013 Premier’s NAIDOC Award, and in 2012 her work was featured in the major exhibition unDisclosed: 2nd National Indigenous Art Triennial.

Public opportunities to engage with Nici Cumpston begin at a reception to celebrate the her exhibition and residency on Friday, March 21st from 5:30 to 7:30 pm. Visitors can engage more in depth with the artist and her photographs the following morning, Saturday, March 22, during a guided tour of her works at the Kluge-Ruhe Collection at 10:30 am.

Nici Cumpston will provide two public lectures at U.Va. On March 25 she will share how fine art photography can raise awareness of environmental degradation at the weekly Environmental Sciences Undergraduate Seminar Series in Clark Hall. She will speak more broadly about the breadth of her art and curatorial practices over the last fifteen years on April 8 at Campbell Hall, room 153. Cumpston will also lead a Flash Seminar at U.Va. about crime scene photography, which will include a look at the artworks of Weegee (1899 – 1968), and Andrew Savulich (b. 1949) in the Fralin Museum of Art’s collection on March 26.

Part of the residency also includes some time for Cumpston to explore the area in and around Charlottesville as the groundwork for a new body of photographs, as well as time to conduct some research on works in Kluge-Ruhe’s permanent collection.

Cumpston is the second resident artist at the Kluge-Ruhe Collection under its prestigious grant from Australia Council for the Arts, which awarded residencies to six Indigenous Australian artists. Her visit is presented in partnership with the Embassy of Australia and U.Va. McIntire Department of Art.

The schedule of the residency is below:

Public Reception with Resident Artist Nici Cumpston
Friday, March 21, 5:30 – 7:30 pm, Kluge-Ruhe Collection

Join the Kluge-Ruhe Collection and Aboriginal artist Nici Cumpston to celebrate the launch of her artist residency. Refreshments will be served, and this event is free and open to the public.

Gallery Walk and Talk with Resident Artist Nici Cumpston
Saturday, March 22, 10:30 am, Kluge-Ruhe Collection

Australian Aboriginal artist Nici Cumpston will provide a guided tour of having-been-there, an exhibition of her hand-colored landscape photographs. This event is free and open to the public, and no reservations are required.

Confronting Issues of Sustainability through Photography
Tuesday, March 25, 4:00 pm, Clark Hall 108

Nici Cumpston, an Australian Aboriginal artist from Adelaide, photographs landscapes that document the natural beauty and the destruction of the Murray-Darling Basin river system, as well as its importance to the Indigenous people of Australia. At the Undergraduate Seminar series, she will present her photographs and discuss how fine art has the power to engage with the sciences and raise awareness about environmental issues.

Crime Scene Photography Flash Seminar
Wednesday, March 26, 3:30 pm, Fralin Museum of Art Print Study Gallery

Can crime scene photography act as fine art photography, and vice versa? Australian Aboriginal photographer Nici Cumpston, who has a background in crime scene, accident investigation, and forensic autopsy photography, will lead a discussion about the documentary power of the camera using the works of Weegee and Andrew Savulich in the Fralin Museum of Art’s permanent collection.

Hand-coloring Photographs: A Workshop with Resident Artist Nici Cumpston
Saturday, April 5, 10 am – 3 pm
reserve a space by emailing

Nici Cumpston is an acclaimed Australian Aboriginal artist and curator, whose artwork primarily involves photographing landscapes, printing them in black and white, and hand-coloring them with acrylic, watercolor and pencil. Join Cumpston for a demonstration of her hand-coloring techniques and a chance to experiment with the medium under her guidance in this five hour workshop. Registration is required, space is limited to 8 U.Va. students, and lunch will be provided. Participants from any department are encouraged to sign up, but please be prepared to bring four to six prints of your own photographs.

Artist Talk by Resident Artist Nici Cumpston
Tuesday, April 8, 5:30 pm, Campbell Hall 158

Australian Aboriginal artist and curator Nici Cumpston will present the breadth of her artwork over the last fifteen years, and will discuss her practice as an artist and a curator of Indigenous art at the Art Gallery of South Australia. This event is free and open to the public, and free parking is available in the Culbreth Garage.

My Land Watercolor Workshop (for grades 2 – 12)
Saturday, April 12, 1 pm and 2:30 pm, Kluge-Ruhe Collection. Registration deadline: April 7.

Join educators from the Kluge-Ruhe Collection in a free hand-coloring workshop inspired by the techniques of Nici Cumpston. Participants will engage in a brief tour and discussion of the artist’s work before using watercolors to bring color back into their own landscape photographs. To register, send a photograph of a landscape that is meaningful to you to with your name, grade, and school by April 7.
1:00-2:00 pm: 2nd – 5th graders
2:30-4:00 pm: 6th – 12th graders

William Barton to Perform with CHS Orchestra • Wednesday February 5, 2014

The Kluge-Ruhe Aboriginal Art Collection will bring internationally acclaimed composer and musician William Barton to Charlottesville for several special performances including a concert with Charlottesville High School students.

William Barton is Aboriginal man from Mount Isa in northwestern Queensland, Australia. For over twenty years he has practiced as a performer of the extended technique of the didjeridu. Barton has toured internationally since age fifteen as a soloist and in collaboration with traditional dance groups, fusion rock and jazz bands, orchestras, string quartets and mixed ensembles. He plays electric or acoustic guitar simultaneously with the didjeridu in a style he calls “didge-fusion.” Highlights of Barton’s career include performing at Carnegie Hall with the Adelaide Symphony Orchestra, presenting a private concert to Queen Sofia of Spain, and composing and performing a world premiere of new work with the Berlin Philharmonic at the Sydney Opera House. Most recently, his album Kalkadungu was named best classical album by ARIA in 2012.

The didjeridu is a wind instrument originated by Australian Aboriginal people, and was traditionally played in tandem with ceremonial dancing and singing. While the instrument is played widely for recreational purposes today, Barton aspires “to create a journey for people through music, to present a diversity in musical styles with the didjeridu, and to engage with audiences about the uniqueness of Australia.” He adds, “It has been a specific passion of mine to work closely with classical music and composers to develop and sustain music for the didjeridu in this environment.”

On February 19th, William Barton will perform with the Charlottesville High School Orchestra String Ensemble, led by Laura Mulligan Thomas, at U.Va.’s Culbreth Theatre at 7 pm. CHSO String Ensemble has garnered a national reputation for excellence, consistently winning top prizes at music festivals all over the country. Tickets are $10 regular admission, $5 for museum members, and free for all students. They can be purchased at the U.Va. Arts Box Office website, by calling (434) 924-3376, or by emailing

On February 22nd, Barton will perform with a group of University of Virginia students comprising the U.Va. McIntire String Quartet as part of TEDxUVA.

Kluge-Ruhe To Host Aussie Bush Banquet • Tuesday January 14, 2014

On February 21 the Kluge-Ruhe Collection will host a benefit dinner celebrating Australia’s rich cultural diversity and the unique role we fulfill in sharing it with an American audience. Our Aussie Bush Banquet features Australian fare prepared by the C & O Restaurant and a stirring program of film, bush poetry, and a performance by William Barton. We hope you will become more involved with the Kluge-Ruhe Collection by joining us at this event!

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The Aussie Bush Banquet will take place at the Jefferson School African American Heritage Center and begins at 6:00 pm. The program includes the premiere of Stars Over The Sea, a documentary film on Torres Strait Islander artist David Bosun, an Australian bush poetry reading by Ian Henry, and a performance by internationally acclaimed didjeridu master William Barton and the U.Va. McIntire String Quartet.

The menu catered by C & O is as follows:

Hors D’Oeuvres
Crispy coconut prawns with curry aioli
Sausage rolls
Wagyu beef carpaccio crostini with feta and dill
Warm potato soufflés with bacon and parmesan

Plated Salad
Roasted beets and feta cheese salad with mint, organic lettuces and orange vinaigrette

Barbecued Barramundi with lime-avocado salad and tamarind-ginger salsa
Braised Australian lamb shoulder with potato pastry and minted salsa verde
Grilled vegetable wellington with local tofu, chevre and bell pepper coulis

Lamingtons with warm vanilla sauce

Tickets come at a variety of price levels and can be purchased here.

We are grateful to the following sponsors for their support: Maria T. Kluge, Office of the Provost and the Vice Provost for the Arts, C & O Restaurant, and T & N Printing.

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Landscape as Proof of having-been-there • Wednesday January 8, 2014

The Kluge-Ruhe Collection will exhibit the work of photographer Nici Cumpston from Jan. 17 through May 18.

Cumpston is descended from the Barkindji people of New South Wales in Australia and also recognizes her Afghan, English and Irish ancestors. She is the curator of Australian Paintings, Sculpture and Indigenous Art at the Art Gallery of South Australia.

The exhibition, having-been-there, is a series of images she created to document the evidence of Aboriginal occupation in Australia before European settlement. Tree engravings, ring trees and remnants of stone tools abound in Barkindji country in New South Wales, subtle signifiers of the spiritual ancestors who once lived in and created the landscape, and of food and water sources that ensured survival. They also serve as undeniable proof of Aboriginal people “having been there,” before and amidst the colonial assertion of “terra nullius,” the idea that Australia was a “land without people.” Additionally they are records of the Murray-Darling Basin river system’s natural beauty, as well as its gradual destruction over time as a result of pollution, salination and re-routing.

Cumpston’s artistic process combines the hand-drawn and the photographic.

“Using medium format film cameras enables me to slow my pace,” she said. After printing the images in black and white on canvas, she colors them by hand with acrylic, watercolor or pencil, which gives her “time to reflect on the cultural stories shared with me by our senior cultural custodian and law man,” she said.

The opening reception for having-been-there will be held Jan. 24, from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m.

Cumpston’s residency at U.Va., sponsored by Australia Council for the Arts, will take place in March and April.

Holiday Hours and Tours 2013 • Tuesday November 26, 2013

Thanksgiving Holiday

November 28 – 29: closed
All other days open with normal hours

Winter Holiday

December 23-26: closed
Friday, December 27: open 10 am – 4 pm, free guided tour at 10:30 am
Saturday, December 28: open 10 am – 4 pm, free guided tour at 10:30 am
Sunday, December 29: open 1 pm – 5 pm
December 30- January 1: closed

Kluge-Ruhe Celebrates National Native Heritage Month with Film Screenings and Flash Seminar • Monday November 4, 2013

The Kluge-Ruhe Collection is celebrating National Native American Heritage Month this year with its creation of an Indigenous Film Program, as part of the Virginia Film Festival, and an associated Flash Seminar.

The Indigenous Film Program consists of two Indigenous films: the Australian Aboriginal film Satellite Boy (2012) and a Canadian Inuit film titled Uvanga. With support from U.Va. Arts Council, the Arctic Culture Forum, and the Embassy of Australia, the Kluge-Ruhe Collection has been successful in bringing the writer and director of Satellite Boy, Catriona McKenzie, and an anthropologist at the Smithsonian Arctic Studies Center, Stephen Loring, for discussions after the respective films. Click here to buy tickets, and here to learn more about each film and see screening times and locations.

Catriona McKenzie will also lead a Flash Seminar at U.Va., which will examine the recent trend of making films on smartphones. It will take place at OpenGrounds, at 6:45 pm on Wednesday, November 6. Pizza will be provided.

31 October 2013

Office of the Press Secretary




From Alaskan mountain peaks to the Argentinian pampas to the rocky shores of Newfoundland, Native Americans were the first to carve out cities, domesticate crops, and establish great civilizations. When the Framers gathered to write the United States Constitution, they drew inspiration from the Iroquois Confederacy, and in the centuries since, American Indians and Alaska Natives from hundreds of tribes have shaped our national life. During Native American Heritage Month, we honor their vibrant cultures and strengthen the government-to-government relationship between the United States and each tribal nation.

As we observe this month, we must not ignore the painful history Native Americans have endured — a history of violence, marginalization, broken promises, and upended justice. There was a time when native languages and religions were banned as part of a forced assimilation policy that attacked the political, social, and cultural identities of Native Americans in the United States. Through generations of struggle, American Indians and Alaska Natives held fast to their traditions, and eventually the United States Government repudiated its destructive policies and began to turn the page on a troubled past.

My Administration remains committed to self-determination, the right of tribal governments to build and strengthen their own communities. Each year I host the White House Tribal Nations Conference, and our work together has translated into action. We have resolved longstanding legal disputes, prioritized placing land into trust on behalf of tribes, stepped up support for Tribal Colleges and Universities, made tribal health care more accessible, and streamlined leasing regulations to put more power in tribal hands. Earlier this year, an amendment to the Stafford Act gave tribes the option to directly request Federal emergency assistance when natural disasters strike their homelands. In March, I signed the Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act, which recognizes tribal courts’ power to convict and sentence certain perpetrators of domestic violence, regardless of whether they are Indian or non-Indian. And this June, I moved to strengthen our nation-to-nation relationships by establishing the White House Tribal Council on Native American Affairs. The Council is responsible for promoting and sustaining prosperous and resilient Native American communities.

As we observe Native American Heritage Month, we must build on this work. Let us shape a future worthy of a bright new generation, and together, let us ensure this country’s promise is fully realized for every Native American.

NOW, THEREFORE, I, BARACK OBAMA, President of the United States of America, by virtue of the authority vested in me by the Constitution and the laws of the United States, do hereby proclaim November 2013 as National Native American Heritage Month. I call upon all Americans to commemorate this month with appropriate programs and activities, and to celebrate November 29, 2013, as Native American Heritage Day.

IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand this thirty-first day of October, in the year of our Lord two thousand thirteen, and of the Independence of the United States of America the two hundred and thirty-eighth.


"Dreaming in Animation" Offers Opportunity for Middle Schoolers to Collaborate Globally • Wednesday October 23, 2013

Caitlin Gallagher (Class of 2014, Architecture) works on her rendering of the lizard in the story of Jiddelek.
The Kluge-Ruhe Aboriginal Art Collection has partnered with the U.Va. School of Architecture and the Virginia Film Festival to offer a one-of-a-kind opportunity for middle school students to use Pixar-style animation software. The final product will be a short animated film of an Aboriginal Dreaming story, which will be used as an educational resource by the affiliated Aboriginal community in Australia. The full-day workshop, titled Dreaming in Animation, is one of many programs offered at the Virginia Film Festival’s Family Day on Saturday, November 9th.

Each middle school participant will be mentored by a U.Va. student and taught the basics of Autodesk Maya, a comprehensive 3D software program. Then, each of the fifteen pairs will create movements for one animal in the Dreaming story, which will later be stitched together to create the final animation short.

The program is spearheaded by Lauren Maupin, Education and Program Coordinator at the Kluge-Ruhe Collection, and Earl Mark, Associate Professor in the U.Va. School of Architecture. Mark, who has extensive experience working in computer animation, teaches three U.Va. classes where digital moviemaking and animation is the primary focus.

Jane Freeman, Outreach Coordinator for the Virginia Film Festival, explains that the “workshop promises to be an outstanding experience for young filmmakers. Not only will participants work with U.Va. experts, but each will have a mentor to guide him or her through the animation process. The combination of the student support along with the unique equipment incorporated in the workshop makes for a very special program!”

The “Dreaming” is a term used to describe the belief systems of Australian Aboriginal cultures, which explains the spiritual origins and existence of the land and its people. The story that will be animated in the program is about Jiddelek, a frog who drinks all the water in Australia. Animals including a wombat, a kangaroo, an emu, and other birds and lizards, become thirsty and devise a plan to make Jiddelek give the water back. Each animal dances before the frog, and finally the humorous antics of a wriggling eel cause Jiddelek to laugh, emptying the water back into the rivers, creeks, lakes and waterholes.

Animated iterations of the lizard for the Dreaming story, developed by Caitlin Gallagher (Architecture, 2015). The top image shows the rendering of the character that Caitlin hand-drew for the program, with several light sources. The second image shows the lizard selected for manipulation. The third image is a first attempt at applying a pattern or texture to the surface of the rendered lizard.
The Kluge-Ruhe Collection has collaborated with the Aboriginal group that owns the story of Jiddelek, the Gunai/Kurnai people of East Gippsland. Community organizer Doris Paton will provide the narration for the story, and the final product will be used as a tool to preserve and educate young generations of Gunai/Kurnai people about their traditional stories and heritage.

“It has been exciting to see how, with the superb dedication of Earl Mark, the program has grown to include such a variety of partners and beneficiaries. Both the workshop and the final product will provide an unparalleled opportunity for all involved,” said Lauren Maupin of Kluge-Ruhe.

Four U.Va. students (Tina Cheng, Caitlin Gallagher, Marina Michael, and Monica Mohapatra) and two alumni (Roderick Cruz and Carter Tata) are dedicating numerous hours to building the characters and the environment for the animation in preparation for the program. Fifteen U.Va. students from varying disciplines have volunteered to be mentors on the day of the program.

Professor Mark believes that “tapping into the high creativity of middle-school age participants combined with the imagination and intelligence of University students has a wonderful potential to build visual interpretations of the Dreaming Story.”

Middle school students who want to participate in this free program are encouraged to apply as soon as possible by pre-registering on the Virginia Film Festival’s Family Day website and completing the program application. The program will take place at Campbell Hall on Saturday, November 9th from 9:00 am – 3:30 pm, with lunch included.

This workshop is part of the Kluge-Ruhe Collection’s Indigenous Film Program at the VFF, which was supported by a grant from U.Va. Arts Council.

Kluge-Ruhe Brings Indigenous Voices to the Virginia Film Festival • Friday October 11, 2013

Film still from Satellite Boy.
The Kluge-Ruhe Aboriginal Art Collection of U.Va. is pioneering the inclusion of Indigenous films in the 2013 Virginia Film Festival. Co-sponsored by U.Va. Arts Council and the Arctic Culture Forum, the Indigenous Film Program includes two feature length dramas, an Australian Aboriginal film called Satellite Boy and a Canadian Inuit film titled Uvanga . Tickets are available here.

Satellite Boy (2012) traces the story of a ten-year old boy named Pete, who takes off to the city to save the abandoned outdoor cinema he lives in with his grandfather in the desert. It will be screened on Friday, November 8 at 4:45 pm at Regal Cinemas 4 on the Downtown Mall. Writer and Director Catriona McKenzie, an Indigenous Australian, will be present for the screening and the discussion that will follow the film. McKenzie spent eight years directing documentaries for the Australian Broadcasting Corporation and has won honors at a number of festivals. Starring David Gulpilil and Cameron Wallaby, Satellite Boy was an official selection for the Toronto Film Festival and was screened at the Berlin International Film Festival.

Uvanga (2013) explores the expedition of Anna and her son, Tomas, to the small community of Igloolik in the Canadian Arctic to learn about Tomas’ paternal heritage. Tomas’ Inuk father died years ago, and the joy of the homecoming is mixed with memories of a painful chapter in the town’s shared history, creating resentment and tension. Uvanga recently won ‘Best Feature’ at the Yellow Knife International Film Festival. It will screen on Thursday, November 7 at 5:30 pm at Regal Cinemas 1 on the Downtown Mall. A Q&A will follow with Dr. Stephen Loring from the Smithsonian’s Arctic Studies Center. Dr. Loring has over thirty years of involvement with Inuit communities and is an amateur filmmaker.

On Family Day, Saturday, November 9, the Kluge-Ruhe Collection has partnered with the U.Va. School of Architecture to offer Dreaming in Animation, a program for middle-school students to try their hand using Pixar-level animation software to bring an Australian Aboriginal Dreaming story to life. The workshop will run from 9:00 – 3:30 pm in Campbell Hall. Interested participants can find the application form on the Family Day website or by emailing

Kluge-Ruhe Unveils Ceremonial Pole by David Bosun and U.Va. Sculpture Students • Monday September 30, 2013

Written by Ashley Patterson

University of Virginia students are only one month into the semester, yet art professor Bill Bennett’s “Introduction to Sculpture” class already has something to show for its work.

The students collaborated with Torres Strait Islander artist David Bosun, the artist-in-residence at the Kluge-Ruhe Collection, to hand-carve a traditional ceremonial Torres Straight totem pole. Standing more than 8 feet tall and carved from a 250-year old pecan tree, the pole features faces, animals and even the students’ initials embedded into the designs.

On Tuesday, Kluge-Ruhe celebrated Bosun and U.Va. sculpture students for their collaborative work. The museum invited the University and Charlottesville community to join Bosun for a discussion on his art, culture and inspiration, culminating in the celebratory unveiling of the totem pole.

Bosun came to the University for a four-week stay as an artist-in-residence, thanks to a grant from the Australia Council for the Arts. He is the first of six Indigenous Australian artists who will take part in a U.Va. residency over the next three years.

Bosun arrived in Charlottesville ready to teach, learn and create, said Margo Smith, director and curator of Kluge-Ruhe.

After finding him hammering away at the sculpture for hours on one of his first days in the studio, Smith told him, “David, you don’t have to finish that today,” but Bosun just looked up and smiled.

Bosun has been “enthusiastic and excited, ready to hit the ground running and take advantage of every opportunity,” Smith said.

Among those opportunities was the chance to work with students. Bennett’s classes met weekly with Bosun, where they learned the skills and techniques as well as the patience it takes to hand-carve a totem pole. With countless hours spent carefully pounding their mallets into the wood, the result was true artwork.

The pole was carved from a 250-year old pecan tree that recently fell at the University. Bosun celebrated the life of the tree on such historical land, saying, “We are making history with history.”

The experience of working with Bosun resonated with the students who came into the class unfamiliar with many of the techniques taught by the artist. Third-year student Sandy Williams expected individual work and the slow learning process that typically accompanies introductory courses, and was surprised to be able to participate in the creation of this piece so early in the semester.

Bosun “instilled confidence that we couldn’t mess up,” Williams said. “He was a good mentor with art-making in general.”

Bosun’s work is heavily influenced by his spiritual beliefs. Traditional totem poles play a significant part in ceremonial ancestry traditions in the Torres Straight Islands. Bosun introduced to Bennett’s students the role of the totem pole and his inspirations, which include ancestry, environment, animals and spirits. He said the passion stirred within him while creating a piece is actually the passion of his ancestors, who are using his art as a medium to speak.

Bosun said he incorporated his ancestral beliefs in creating the totem pole with Bennett’s students.

“It’s a different idea,” Williams said. “It takes opened-mindedness.”

Graduate student Lindsay Hinz had a more difficult time connecting with Bosun’s spiritual inspiration, yet she said the experience taught her “there is something in everyone’s life they can connect to, even if it isn’t ancestry.”

The collaboration not only resonated with the students but also had an impact on Bosun as well. “I had a very good experience with all the students,” he said. “It was my first time teaching and my first time teaching wood-carving. The passion they showed was a good experience for me, because I’ve never had it with my own people since I have never taught before.”

The totem pole will join Bosun’s Ngau Gidthal (My Stories) exhibition at the Kluge-Ruhe Collection in mid-October. The exhibition will be on display through Dec. 29.

David Bosun Visits U.Va. for Exhibition and Residency • Wednesday August 21, 2013

Artist David Bosun, working on a sculpture totem.

In September the Kluge-Ruhe Collection of U.Va. will host artist David Bosun, a printmaker and woodcarver from Moa Island in the Torres Strait. His residency, sponsored by Australia Council for the Arts, will provide a variety of exciting, interdisciplinary opportunities to meet the artist and learn about his unique culture and art practice.

In 2000, David Bosun was chosen by elders as one of four artists to begin recording the Islands’ creation stories in the form of printmaking. This marked the first time that traditional stories took visual form since the loss of their material culture to missionaries and collectors a century earlier. Known for its strong figurative imagery and intricate design, or minaral, Bosun’s work reflects Melanesian influences inspired through longstanding trade between Torres Strait Islanders and coastal Papua New Guineans. The linoleum and woodblock prints in the exhibition Ngau Gidthal (My Stories), on view September 6 – December 29 at the Kluge-Ruhe Collection, illustrate the ancestral traditions of the Mualgal people, from seasonal indicators used in ancient hunting practices to the significance of the constellations within the celestial sphere.

David Bosun, Baidamaw Titui Buna Urdhay Id, 2012.
Museum Director Margo Smith said, “David Bosun’s residency and exhibition will allow us to share the striking contemporary art and culture of Torres Strait Islanders, who are distinct from Aboriginal people on mainland Australia, and whose art is not well represented in the Kluge-Ruhe Collection.”

Bosun’s residency provides a unique opportunity for UVa students and the Charlottesville community to learn from a leading Indigenous Australian artist. He will briefly discuss his work at the opening reception of Ngau Gidthal (My Stories) on Friday, September 6 from 5:30 to 7:30 pm. Visitors can engage in depth with the artist the following morning, Saturday, September 7, during a guided tour of his prints at 10:30 am. Bosun will be present for the final Night at the Museum event of the summer, on Thursday, September 19, when the Kluge-Ruhe Collection throws open the doors to its expansive lawn for local beer, food trucks, and live music.

On Tuesday, September 24 at 5:30 pm, Bosun will discuss the breadth of his sculpture and printmaking practice over the last fifteen years in an Artist Talk in U.Va. Campbell Hall room 153, followed by a reception in Ruffin Hall. He will give a presentation on Torres Strait Islander astronomy at McCormick Observatory on Sunday, September 29 at 7 pm.

Bosun will work collaboratively with U.Va. studio art students on carving a wooden pole, the wood of which originates from a recent 250 year old Pecan tree that fell recently at the museum. He will also guest lecture in a printmaking class, and plans to share his knowledge and skill in traditional Torres Strait Islander dance in a course titled The Art of Dance.

David Bosun’s interest in the visual arts began at age four, when he began practicing traditional dancing and singing. He attended Cairns Technical and Further Educational Institute in 1996, and is a founding member of Mualgau Minaral Artist Collective. His work was included in Gelam Nguzu Kazi (Dugong My Son), which was the first touring exhibition of artwork from Moa Island. He is the first resident artist at the Kluge-Ruhe Collection under its prestigious grant from Australia Council for the Arts, which awarded residencies to six Indigenous Australian artists. The exhibition and residency has also been presented in partnership with Ngalmun Lagau Minaral Art Centre and The Australian Art Print Network.

See our events page for a full list of events associated with Bosun’s residency.

"Heart of the Desert" Opens Next Week • Wednesday July 31, 2013

A new exhibition of twenty works from the permanent collection titled Heart of the Desert will open on Tuesday and includes paintings from the Aboriginal communities of Papunya, Yuendumu and Balgo.

The central desert of Australia stretches from Lake Eyre in the southeast to the Kimberley Plateau in the northwest. This vast and diverse area is the homeland to people representing many different language and culture groups.

Traditional art from this region was painted on the body or drawn in the sand. Such ephemeral images have inspired more permanent and contemporary art forms, specifically acrylic paintings on board and canvas.

Beginning in 1971 at a government settlement called Papunya, Aboriginal men produced paintings on masonite, wood and eventually canvas. This activity grew into a major art movement that radiated out to the neighboring communities of Yuendumu and Balgo. Men and women artists in each place distinguished their own local style of painting by varying elements like the palette of colors and quality of dots.

The iconography of desert paintings typically represent features of the landscape, ancestral beings and their activities in the creation era known as the Dreaming (Tjukurrpa/Jukurrpa). The concentric circles, wavy lines, and animal tracks that make up the primary design elements of the art of central Australia, express a traditional body of knowledge and relationship to land that has persisted for thousands of years.

Celebrate NAIDOC Week July 7 - 14! • Monday July 1, 2013

NAIDOC stands for National Aborigines and Islanders Day Observance Committee, and its origins can be traced to the emergence of Aboriginal groups in the 1920s which sought to increase awareness in the wider community of the status and treatment of Indigenous Australians. NAIDOC Week is an annual week-long celebration of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures and an opportunity to recognize the contributions of Indigenous Australians in various fields.

In recognition and celebration, the Kluge-Ruhe Collection will fly the Aboriginal flag for the duration of the week and is offering free, public programs.


Guided Tour with Professor Howard Morphy
Sunday, July 7, 1:00 pm

To kick off NAIDOC Week, Professor Howard Morphy will give a free guided tour of the museum’s current exhibitions. Dr. Morphy is the Director of the Research School of Humanities and the Arts at Australian National University and has served as advisor to the Kluge-Ruhe Collection since 1995. He is the author of several books including Ancestral Connections: Art and an Aboriginal System of Knowledge (University of Chicago Press), Aboriginal Art (Phaidon) and, with Marcus Banks, Rethinking Visual Anthropology (Yale University Press).

Reception with Master Printer Michael Kempson and Curator Tess Allas
Friday, July 12, 5:30 – 7:30 pm

Join the Kluge-Ruhe Collection in celebrating the exhibition Black Prints from Cicada Press over wine and hors d’oeuvres. Michael Kempson, Director and Master Printer at Cicada Press, and Tess Allas, lecturer at the College of Fine Arts at the University of New South Wales, will be present to discuss the exhibition and the importance of NAIDOC week for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.

Aboriginal Flag Printmaking Workshop
Saturday, July 13, 1:00 – 3:00 pm

Make your own Aboriginal flag! In this family workshop, learn about the printmaking process from Michael Kempson and the significance of the Aboriginal flag from Tess Allas. Each participant will leave with their own print of the flag.

After the Dreamings moderated discussion on June 11 • Thursday June 6, 2013

In 1988 at the Asia Society Galleries in New York, an exhibition titled Dreamings: The Art of Aboriginal Australia changed the way Americans viewed Aboriginal art. Dreamings was pivotal in defining Aboriginal art as contemporary fine art, and as a result, several American collectors including John Kluge were inspired to create world class collections. In the past year, two of these collections appeared in major exhibitions at Seattle Art Museum and the Hood Museum of Art at Dartmouth College, demonstrating the growing significance of Aboriginal art to audiences worldwide.

On June 11 at 7 p.m., the Kluge-Ruhe Aboriginal Art Collection will host After the Dreamings – 25 Years of Australian Aboriginal Art in the U.S., a moderated discussion with Françoise Dussart and Wally Caruana, two leading figures in the study of Aboriginal art.

“We will explore the impact of the Dreamings exhibition and the changes that have happened in the years since,” said Margo Smith, Director and Curator of the Kluge-Ruhe Collection. “Contemporary Aboriginal art today is very different from 1988 when the Dreamings exhibition was considered cutting edge. Dussart and Caruana can shed a lot of light on how this change occurred and what it means for Aboriginal art.”

Françoise Dussart is a Professor of Anthropology & Women’s Studies at the University of Connecticut. She has conducted field work with Warlpiri people in Yuendumu, NT over the past 30 years and was instrumental in the development of art production in Central Australia. She served on the curatorial committee for Dreamings: The Art of Aboriginal Australia and is the author of La Peinture Des Aborigenes D’Australie (Éditions Parenthèses, 1993) and The politics of ritual in an aboriginal settlement: kinship, gender, and the currency of knowledge (Smithsonian, 2000). Dussart recently contributed an essay to the catalogue for Crossing Cultures: The Owen and Wagner Collection of Contemporary Aboriginal Australian Art which is on exhibition at the Toledo Museum of Art through July 14, 2013.

Wally Caruana was Senior Curator of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Art at the National Gallery of Australia from 1984 to 2001, during which time he oversaw the development of one of the most important collections of Indigenous Australian art in a public museum. Caruana is the author of several publications including Aboriginal Art published by Thames and Hudson in 1993 (third edition 2012). Recently Caruana co-curated Ancestral Modern: The Kaplan –Levi Collection of Australian Aboriginal Art at the Seattle Art Museum.

Reservations are required. Please call 434-244-0234 or email

K-R announces recipients of Australia Council artist residencies • Monday May 27, 2013

The Kluge-Ruhe Aboriginal Art Collection of the University of Virginia, in partnership with Australia Council for the Arts, has awarded six residencies over the next three years to artists David Bosun, Nici Cumpston, Bronwyn Bancroft, Marshall Bell, Ricardo Idagi and Bianca Beetson. The recipients were announced at the 6th National Indigenous Arts Awards at the Sydney Opera House, Monday, May 27, 2013. Australia Council will provide partial funding for each residency and supervised the application process. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Arts Board Chair, Lee-Ann Tjunypa Buckskin said, “We are thrilled to build such an important international bridge and look forward to the benefits not only for the artists involved but for Indigenous people and cultures in Australia and globally.”

Each four-week residency includes an exhibition at the Kluge-Ruhe Collection and the opportunity to participate in the academic life of the University of Virginia through a variety of programs and collaborative projects. Kluge-Ruhe Director Margo Smith said, “The recipients are all highly accomplished artists whose areas of expertise range from sculpture to printmaking, painting and photography. Each artist will contribute significantly to our community of learning and the student experience at U.Va.”

David Bosun (Mualgal), from Moa Island in the Torres Strait, will undertake the first Australia Council residency in September 2013. He will work with students to carve Mualgal ceremonial poles that both depict and contain the spirits of ancestral beings. An expert printmaker working with linoleum and wood cut processes, Bosun will participate in a print workshop with U.Va. students and faculty.

Nici Cumpston (Barkindji) is a photographer who is also curator of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander art at the Art Gallery of South Australia in Adelaide. Cumpston will demonstrate her technique for making hand-colored photographs and create new work focused on the central Virginia environment.

Bronwyn Bancroft (Bundjalung) from New South Wales will expand on the painting techniques and conceptual train of thought developed in her DNA and Linear Linkages series. These works are representative of her connection to country and cultural heritage.

Marshall Bell (Kamilaroi/Yimin) from Brisbane will use the iconography of southeast Australia to revive cultural knowledge that has been concealed by colonization. He will develop a new body of paintings and construct site-specific sculptural projects with U.Va. students.

Ricardo Idagi (Meriam) from Murray Island in the Torres Strait is a sculptor and ceramic artist who will develop new work focused on identity and cultural difference. Idagi’s project involves examining the struggles shared by African Americans and Indigenous Australians in the area of civil rights.

Bianca Beetson (Kabi Kabi/Gabbi Gabbi and Waradjuri) will explore the colonial history of Virginia to develop a greater understanding of its effects on Virginia’s indigenous people. This research will inform Beetson’s artistic practice, which includes painting, photography, sculpture, textiles and new media.

“The knowledge and skills of this group of artists extends far beyond the studio,” added Smith. “We are looking forward to creating many programs across disciplines to involve as many students as possible in these residencies.”

The Kluge-Ruhe Collection began offering artist residencies in 2011 and has hosted artists Reko Rennie, Ricky Maynard, Judy Watson, Vernon Ah Kee and Yhonnie Scarce. The extended length of the Australia Council residencies will allow for more expansive creative projects and prolonged engagement with students in a variety of disciplines.

'Black Prints from Cicada Press' Opening on May 31st • Saturday May 18, 2013

For its summer exhibition the Kluge-Ruhe Collection has partnered with Cicada Press to showcase the work of Australian Aboriginal artists working in the printmaking medium.

Cicada Press is an educationally focused printmaking workshop at the College of Fine Arts, University of New South Wales (COFA UNSW) in Sydney that places emphasis on open dialogue and the importance of lived experience in learning. Since 2006 Michael Kempson, director of Cicada Press, and Tess Allas, curator of Black Prints, have invited emerging and established Aboriginal artists to explore printmaking as an artistic practice in the form of workshops and residencies. Some of the artists were experienced printmakers, while others explored the medium for the first time. The result is an eclectic but meaningful exhibition addressing the contemporary Aboriginal experience in Australia today, by artists such as Gordon Hookey, Vernon Ah Kee, Reko Rennie and Laurel Nannup.

The title Black Prints is a word play on the Australian child’s summer obsession of collecting cicada carcasses. While ‘Greengrocers’ are the most common species of cicada, many of them can be traded for just one of the rarely found, but highly prized ‘Black Prince.’ Fittingly, spring 2013 marks the emergence of 17-year cicadas in our area.

The exhibition is part of the Kluge-Ruhe Collection’s celebration of NAIDOC week. NAIDOC (National Aborigines and Islanders Day Observance Committee) week is a national Australian celebration of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures and an opportunity to recognize the contributions of Indigenous Australians in various fields. Details on programs celebrating NAIDOC week will be released in late May.

The public is invited for a reception to celebrate the opening of Black Prints from Cicada Press, along with the reopening of the museum’s permanent exhibition Past Forward >> Contemporary Aboriginal Art, on Friday, May 31 from 5:30 – 7:30 pm.

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