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Reece Museum

The Center for Appalachian Studies & Services

Current Exhibits at the Reece Museum
  • JJ Cromer, Flarf Comes to Appalachia, 2009, mixed media on paper

    Self-Taught Art By Any of Its Names

  • Ackermann at her desk.

    The World Through A Woman's Eyes

  • Quilt Section

    AIDS Memorial Quilt


AIDS Memorial Quilt (September 10 -15)

Sections of the internationally celebrated AIDS Memorial Quilt – the 54-ton, handmade tapestry that stands as a memorial to more than 96,000 individuals lost to AIDS – will be on view from September 10 – September 15 at the Reece Museum at ETSU in Johnson City. This free display of The AIDS Memorial Quilt is being hosted by TriPride and ETSU as an official TriPride week event and visitors may attend Monday – Saturday with a special reception happening Tuesday, September 11 from 6 to 8 p.m. The Reece Museum will be extending its hours for viewing the quilts on Wednesday, September 12 until 6:30 p.m. and on Saturday, September 15, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Established in 1987, The NAMES Project Foundation is the international organization that is the custodian of The AIDS Memorial Quilt. The AIDS Memorial Quilt began with a single 3 x 6 foot panel created in San Francisco in 1987. Today, The Quilt is composed of more than 49,000 individual 3 x 6 foot panels, each one commemorating the life of someone who has died of AIDS. These panels come from every state in the nation, every corner of the globe and they have been sewn by hundreds of thousands of friends, lovers and family members into this epic memorial, the largest piece of ongoing community art in the world.

In a war against a disease that has no cure, The AIDS Memorial Quilt has evolved as our most potent tool in the effort to educate against the lethal threat of AIDS. By revealing the humanity behind the statistics, The AIDS Memorial Quilt helps teach compassion, triumphs over taboo, stigma and phobia; and inspires individuals to take direct responsibility for their own well-being and that of their family, friends and community.

The World through a Woman's Eyes (August 27 - October 12)

The Reece Museum presents The World Through a Woman’s Eyes, an exhibition exploring the life and work of activist, author and world traveler Jessie Ackermann. The exhibition will be on display August 27 through October 12, 2018.

Born in either 1857 or 1860 and either in Frankfort, Illinois, or Boston, Massachusetts (Ackermann claimed both dates and places throughout her life), Ackermann began her multi-faceted career in the early 1880s with the prohibitionist organization Good Templers. Soon thereafter, she went to work for the Woman’s Christian Temperance Union (WCTU). Although she spent most of her life in the public eye, today many in her home country do not recognize her name.

Beginning her multi-faceted career in the 1880s, Ackermann’s work took her around the globe eight times—visiting every country except for Afghanistan and Greenland. A 1910 article in the Geraldton Guardian, a Western Australia newspaper, reported she had slept in 2,700 beds. Ackermann viewed herself as a sociologist, fascinated with the study of the human condition. She wrote, and often spoke publically about her travel observations and experiences. She introduced many audiences, particularly in the United States, to the world’s other cultures.

She also educated audiences, here and abroad, about the alcohol and opium trades, abuses against women (feet binding and divorce laws to name two), universal suffrage, world peace, poverty, working class conditions, and other progressive topics.  She stressed the need for education for all, especially woman, and took academic courses throughout her life, including at East Tennessee State Teachers College (now ETSU).

It was during Ackermann’s time in Johnson City that she built a relationship with then East Tennessee State Teachers College President, Dr. Charles C. Sherrod. Her friendship with Sherrod led Ackermann to donate much of her library, correspondence, and mementos from her travels to the school. The Ackermann collection was the largest donation of its kind made to the school up to that point. Museum records indicate that in 1957 the Ackermann collection consisted of 243 artifacts. When the Reece Museum opened in 1965, Ackermann artifacts were some of the first artifacts absorbed by the new institution.

Speaking of the Ackermann Collection, Amy Steadman, Reece Museum Collections Manager, said: “Ackermann’s passion to understand different cultures – and in many ways humanity itself – is ever present in what she kept close to her. Women’s handiwork, a teapot, pair of shoes, and the American Flag symbolized more than just objects, they held the life of those who used them.” 

Writings by Ackermann were published around the world. She wrote several books and many magazine articles. One book, The World Through a Woman’s Eyes (published in 1896), details her world travels. In that book she writes: “I was a guest in nearly two thousand homes; all kinds of homes, rich and poor, high and low—from palace, government house and castle to the thatched cot of the sturdy farmer, the canvas or tin tent of the miner, and the bark hut of the lumber camp.”

A public panel discussion—Untold Stories: Jessie Ackermann and Women’s History featuring Jenny Brock, Vice Mayor of Johnson City; Melanie Storie, historian and Senior Lecturer at ETSU; and Amy Steadman, Reece Museum Collection Manager—will be held at 5 pm on Thursday, September 13. Following the panel, a reception will be from 6 until 7 pm.

On September 19, from 12 to 1 pm, again in the Reece Museum, a “Women on Wednesday” lecture entitled Mingle with the World: Life and Work of Jessie Ackermann by Amy Steadman, and sponsored by the Women’s Studies Program at ETSU, will take place. Finally, a book club for Ackermann’s book The World Through a Woman’s Eyes will be held on Saturday, October 6 at 4:30 pm in the Johnson City Public Library. The book is available free online at

Receptions and events are free and open to the public. The Reece Museum, located on the campus of East Tennessee State University, is open Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. For more information, please visit or phone (423) 439-4392.

Self-taught Art By Any of Its Names     (July 26 - September 27, 2018)

The Reece Museum and Mary B. Martin School of the Arts in cooperation with Grey Carter-Objects of Art present Self-taught Art By Any of Its Names, an exhibition celebrating the work of over 20 self-taught artists. The exhibition, curated by Grey Carter, will be on display from July 26 to Sept. 27 with receptions on opening and closing evenings.   

Self-taught Art By Any of Its Names explores the work of artists who have not attended art school, but who have nevertheless created compelling art. As the exhibition title suggests, the work of these artists commonly acquires labels such as outsider, folk, visionary, primitive or naïve art. For these artists it is their background, environment or even personal challenges that are typically given more attention than the artwork itself.

Carter poses the questions, “Should not their work be acknowledged and accepted for what it is?” and “Why shouldn’t these artists’ efforts be recognized without the implied caveats of additional labels or unique storyline?”

Categorizing artists by their level of training should be a thing of the past, Carter says. “Why do we need to categorize artists or separate them out?” he asks. “Many of us who have been admiring and collecting this work have come to conclude that this kind of labeling may have outlived its usefulness. While it might serve a purpose for art historians or teachers, these labels can too often be misleading or confusing to the general audience.

“So long as mankind has created art, there have been self-taught artists, and in a general discussion of art history they were considered just that – artists.” 

The works are on loan courtesy of Grey Carter-Objects of Art in McLean, Va. Carter has been collecting and representing self-taught artists for over 50 years.

“For many years, the dominance of the art academies, especially the restrictive European academies, obscured the work of many of those who were self-taught and as such were therefore judged to be inept and inferior,” Carter says. “Around the beginning of the 20th century, a number of artists asserted themselves and rebelled against the academies. Self-taught artists began to receive serious attention from noteworthy or ‘accepted’ artists in the mainstream of the art world …

“Jean Dubuffet, long an admirer of the self-taught, coined the term art brut … Therefore the term ‘raw art’ began to be used. In the early 1970s, the critic and writer Roger Cardinal posited the term that remains popular today: ‘outsider.’

“Some years later the term ‘visionary’ came into vogue to indicate that some artists create work as a form of inner necessity or compulsion.”

“Vernacular” and “intuitive” are additional, more contemporary terms for this kind of visual expression, Grey says.    

The Self-taught exhibition will spotlight more than 100 works and feature a wide range of media, including many different types of paintings, mixed-media drawings, found object, metal and rock sculpture and hooking. The show will be hung in a “salon-esque” style, says Spenser Brenner, Reece exhibition coordinator.

 “This exhibition showcases the creativity, the skills and the drive that these self-taught artists all share,” Brenner says. “It proves that a lack of formal training does not hold them or anyone back from making compelling work.”

An opening exhibition reception with Grey Carter will be held Thursday, July 26, 5-7 p.m., and a closing reception will be held on Thursday, Sept. 27, 5-7 p.m. Both events are free and open to the public.

“Like the title of the exhibition, I trust you will find the works to be at their core, and in their spirit, thoughtful, exciting, provocative and full of positive tension,” Carter says. “But whether you embrace or disavow labels, I hope you find the art entertaining, inspirational, amusing and perhaps even educational. Most importantly, I hope the exhibit will be memorable.”

For more information please call 423-439-4392 or visit the Reece Museum website at





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