Annual Report 2016 | From the Friends Board President
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From the Friends Board President

“Which one is your favorite, and why?” If you have been at the Nasher on a Sunday afternoon or a random Thursday night, you have probably heard me say these words to my boys, ages six and four. Every time we enter a gallery I always start by asking them to pick their favorite, and then give me their reasoning. And they will carefully look over the choices, and then pick out a portrait by Barkley Hendricks if one is hanging there. They don’t offer much in the way of reasoning, but my intention is to get them thinking and considering what it is they are seeing.


Not only are they subject to my parental prodding, they have to listen to me talk about my favorites, and works that I want them to pay attention to. Sometimes it is easy, like getting them to take a (very) short quiet moment before Edmund De Wall’s Breathturn, featured in the exhibition A Material Legacy: The Nancy A. Nasher and David J. Haemisegger Collection of Contemporary Art this past February. And we have spent a good amount of time with Hank Willis Thomas’s Black Righteous Space (Southern Edition) in the Southern Accent exhibition. But if they could avoid listening to any more talk about Jerstin Crosby and Bill Thelen’s Biscuit King they happily would.

Henry Sappenfield (right) with Merge Records co-founder Mac McCaughan.

And there is a great deal I think is important that I can’t yet talk to them about. The South I want to live in and imagine looks like Catherine Opie’s Melissa & Lake, Durham, North Carolina, but it comes after and is unfortunately reflected in Gordon Parks, Department Store, Mobile, Alabama, 1956. But I am glad that they are being exposed to it, and I am glad for the work of the Nasher staff, its members and benefactors which allow them this exposure.


The generosity and commitment of so many people provides this amazing gift to my sons, and to all of us. The Nasher staff, from the director on down, is filled with committed and singularly talented people that create such important and challenging exhibitions, and provide amazing opportunities for learning and connection. When I first became involved at the Nasher, I couldn’t imagine that I would have the time to live with individual works, and then discuss those works and their meanings with the curators and oftentimes the artists themselves.


The programming and events have been spectacular in 2016. The Southern Accent exhibition has been a wonderful opportunity. In a single month I got to see Patrick Haggerty perform as Lavender Country and talk about his life, and see a hardcore matinee on the Nasher grounds. It also featured the 2016 Gala, which gave the Nasher a wonderful and memorable way to thank Richard Brodhead for all that he has done for the Nasher, and the arts at Duke. The creativity and hard work that went into putting these very different events together is appreciated.


The hard work extends to those involved in helping make the Nasher a key part of the Duke and Durham communities. The extensive and thoughtful educational opportunities that are provided to Durham students and children in the nearby areas are a great part of the Nasher story, and it as much a part of its legacy and good works as the spectacular exhibitions.


Thank you to all who contribute to the Nasher, for all that you do. And to the Friends Board and its members, you are proof of a community that wishes to take the best parts of itself and make them better. You are also a lot of fun, and I wish I had more time with each of you.


And to those people whose trips to the galleries have been distracting due to talkative children and inquisitive parents, I am sorry. We will work to keep it down in 2017. But they are growing up with a unique and special cultural institution due to your generosity and commitment. Thank you.


Henry  Sappenfield
President, Nasher Museum Friends Board