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Friday, October 12, 2018

Deborah Emont Scott: Artfully Leading the Taft Museum of Art

Article and Photos (except where indicated) By Mary Casey-Sturk

Inside a National Historic Landmark built about 1820 you will find many treasures from the family that treasured this home. The Baum-Longworth-Sinton-Taft House, mainly known to all who love it as the Taft Museum of Art, was given to the City of Cincinnati in 1927 as a bequest from Anna Sinton Taft and her husband, Charles Phelps Taft.  After their passing, their home, including 690 works of art, opened as the Museum in 1932. The collection includes impressive works by Rembrandt van Rijn, James Abbott McNeill Whistler, J.M.W. Turner and more.

Deborah Enmont Scottt (photo provided by The Taft Museum of Art) 
Since then, the Museum has expanded in size and scope, offering an astounding selection of art and special exhibitions that attract locals and visitors alike. 

Leading the charge since 2009 is Mt. Lookout resident, Deborah Emont Scott, Louise Taft Semple President and Chief Executive Officer. We asked Scott what drew her to the Taft. 

“During graduate school I traveled to Cincinnati to do some research at the Cincinnati Art Museum. I knew about the Taft Museum of Art and went to visit it and found it closed. I told myself I would be back some day.
The historic Taft Museum of Art 

“It took a little longer than I thought, but I also didn’t think I would be the President/CEO. I’ve been at the Taft almost nine years. I was drawn to the kind of museum that the Taft is, its size and its marvelous collection.”

What surprised Scott the most when she moved to Cincinnati? “The sheer number of arts organizations in Cincinnati is staggering. I often suggest to people who grow up in Cincinnati that they need to leave Cincinnati, live somewhere else for a while and then return to this great city. Only then will they understand just how special Cincinnati is for a Midwestern city. 

A room in the lovely Museum
“Just in the visual arts, we have the Contemporary Art Center, the Cincinnati Art Museum and the Taft. How many other Midwestern cities of our size can make such a claim?” 

With so many galleries of wonderful art inside the Taft, does Scott have a favorite? “I love looking at the photographs that show how the different rooms looked while the Tafts lived here. It was clear they loved their art collection and lived surrounded by it. The galleries are dramatically transformed from that time – from ‘living’ rooms to rooms for the art. 

Famous artwork in the Taft 
“The gracious proportions of the Music Room makes it my favorite. I imagine that when the Tafts lived here they could have entertained lots of people who could have had multiple small conversations going on at the same time. I am sure it was very civilized.”

The Museum’s annual holiday treat, Antique Christmas, brings smiles to all ages with a collection of artfully decorated feather trees, toys and memorabilia from the past. Families flock to this exhibition, which is spread throughout the historic house and features many festive vignettes. Many make this an annual event, combining a visit to the Lindner Family CafĂ© and a little holiday shopping in the Taft’s gift shop, featuring an array of gifts and books for all ages. 

Holidays at the Taft are festive!
What’s coming in 2019? Scott shares news of these enticing exhibitions: 
“Winslow Homer to Georgia O’Keefe: American Paintings from the Phillips Collection. The show will include 55 works by American masters including Thomas Eakins, Winslow Homer, Edward Hopper, Georgia O’Keeffe and Helen Frankenthaler. The paintings span the period from the 1860s through the 1960s. This is a great show for the Taft since all the works in the exhibition are drawn from The Phillips Collection, Washington, D.C., which Phillips established in 1921 - just six years before Charles and Anna Taft bequeathed their own collection and home to the people of Cincinnati, thus founding the Taft Museum of Art.

“We are very excited about hosting L'Affichomania: The Passion for French Posters next summer. Meant to stop people in their tracks with bold colors and seductive imagery, French advertising posters of the turn of the 20th century ultimately became highly collectible works of art.” 

Beautiful furnishings, paintings and decorative art are plentiful at the Taft. 
It's well known Cincinnati has a very generous community that supports the arts, and this is not lost on a grateful Scott, “We cannot have a functioning society without empathy. Art - making it, watching it, looking at it, reading it, helps us develop empathy. Cincinnatians understand this and support our arts organizations generously, year after year after year. I know I speak for other leaders of Cincinnati arts organizations expressing gratitude for their generosity.”

With all these stellar exhibitions and an outstanding permanent collection to oversee, does Scott have time for a hobby? “My husband is an avid gardener. I am an avid harvester, providing that it is neither too hot nor too buggy outdoors.”

Grow your love for art and harvest your own memories with a visit to the Taft Museum Art. For more information:
Taft Museum of Art
316 Pike Street
Cincinnati, OH 45202

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