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Gorham silver makes a comeback via RISD Museum
May 31, 2018
Katy B. Olson

RISD Museum will receive a $30,000 grant from the National Endowment for the Arts—specifically, the funds will support the forthcoming exhibition “Gorham Silver: Designing Brilliance 1850–1970.” NEA chair Jane Chu earlier this month approved upwards of $80 million in grants as part of the endowment’s second major funding announcement for 2018.

Thomas Pairpoint, designer; Gorham Manufacturing Company, manufacturer; Epergne, 1872. The Gorham Collection. Gift of Textron Inc.; courtesy RISD Museum
Epergne (1872). Thomas Pairpoint, designer; Gorham Manufacturing Company, manufacturer. The Gorham Collection. Gift of Textron Inc.; courtesy RISD Museum

RISD’s grant is part of the Art Works funding category, which “support projects that focus on the creation of art that meets the highest standards of excellence, public engagement with diverse and excellent art, lifelong learning in the arts, and/or the strengthening of communities through the arts.”

The museum joins other institutions and organizations receiving funds, among them the St. Louis Classical Guitar Society in Missouri, which received a $25,000 grant for its classical guitar education program for schoolchildren; the Deputy Sheriff’s Activities League in San Leandro, California, which received $100,000 to support the creation of art by young adult artists; and Colorado State University in Fort Collins, which will receive a $90,000 grant to support studies investigating the benefits of live performing arts attendance for older adults with cognitive impairment and their caregivers.

“The variety and quality of these projects speaks to the wealth of creativity and diversity in our country,” said Chu. “Through the work of organizations such as the RISD Museum in Providence, Rhode Island, NEA funding invests in local communities, helping people celebrate the arts wherever they are.”

Of the Gorham Manufacturing Company, the museum explains, “Commissioned to create everything from public presentation pieces to one-of-a-kind showstoppers for use in the private dining rooms of America, Gorham put uniquely American design and the aspirations of a youthful nation on the world stage. ‘Gorham Silver: Designing Brilliance’ casts new light on the golden era of this company, first established in 1831 in Providence. Silver and mixed-metal wares produced from 1850 to 1970 are considered within social, cultural, industrial, aesthetic and technological contexts.”

The museum owns over 2,200 pieces of Gorham silver and metalwork in the greatest collection of objects by the company available in a public institution. “‘Designing Brilliance’ is the first multivenue Gorham exhibition (it will also travel to the Cincinnati Art Museum and the Mint Museum in Charlotte, North Carolina), and the accompanying book, published by Rizzoli, is the first major comprehensive publication on Gorham since 1982.”

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