10 Reasons to visit Duxbury’s newly renovated cultural gem.
Written by Judy Fosdick Photography by Jack Foley
Looking for an enriching fall excursion? Consider a trip to the Art Complex Museum (ACM). Nestled in the woods of Duxbury, this museum recently reopened following a two-year closure for renovations of its elegant building and surrounding grounds. In the spring of 2022, the ACM marked its 50+1 anniversary by welcoming newcomers and return visitors back to its elegant galleries. From the extensive permanent collection and inspiring works by contemporary artists, to the numerous whimsical sculptures that dot the surrounding landscape, the ACM is a beloved art institution where guests can enjoy the beauty of nature and art.
A Family’s Collection
The Art Complex Museum’s co-founder Carl A. Weyerhaeuser (1901-1996) had the good fortune to come from a family whose multimillion dollar lumber enterprise allowed him to begin collecting art in college. In time, Carl and his wife Edith filled their home with hundreds of pieces, including Shaker furniture, American paintings, European and American prints, and Asian art. As their home filled with art, the couple planned and built a museum to share their collection. Since 1971 the museum has proudly shown Carl and Edith’s treasures next to works by contemporary artists, adhering to the founder’s vision, “to create a place that inspired curiosity, where people from the community could gather, enjoy beauty, and learn about the arts.”
The Founders Room
As part of its strategic plan, the museum wanted to add space for its extensive Asian art collection and honor its 50th anniversary. The museum library was reimagined to create the Founders Room. Visitors can follow an illustrated timeline about the museum’s beginnings. The whole collection is at your fingertips using a touch-screen monitor. Curate your own art exhibit. Step up to a light table. Move around picture cards of collection works to create your own show. Fall into a chair with a book from the library or watch a video of a tea ceremony in the museum’s cherished Japanese tea house. The video allows guests to view the tea ceremony year round even though it takes place only a few times each summer. In the corner of the space, is a display of art and antiques that pays tribute to Carl and Edith Weyerhaeuser’s family collection.
An Outdoor Experience
The museum is located on Alden Street, on 12 acres of peaceful woodland. The landscape invites visitors to walk or wheel on paved pathways set close to plants, trees, and sculptures. Museum director Charles Weyerhaeuser, the son of the founders, explains that the new ADA-compliant paths tie together the education building, the tea house, and the main gallery.
“The landscape sets the mood for the museum experience, heightens the senses, and prepares the guests to be receptive to new ideas,” says Weyerhaeuser. Part of the experience is viewing sculpture in the new “Please Approach the Bench” exhibit. Five New England artists created sculptural benches, which offer an element of surprise along the woodland path.
Exhibits, Concerts and Tea Ceremony, Oh My!
Because exhibitions change every two months, a guest can return to the ACM again and again and always see something new. Edith Weyerhaeuser (1912-2000) explained how the museum got its unusual name. “We wanted the Complex to fulfill so many things that we’ve always been interested in. Music is art, architecture is art and photography and books are important. There are also the meetings, talks, demonstrations and classes. All these things make it a ‘complex’ rather than just a museum.”
From Asia with Love
The museum’s founders made collecting art a part of their travels to Asia. Kojiro Tomita, curator of Asian art at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, guided the Weyerhaeusers’ purchases as they expanded their art collection to include more than 1,500 pieces of early 20th-century Japanese ceramics. Tomita also commissioned the construction of a tea house in Japan, which was disassembled and sent to Duxbury to be assembled on the museum grounds in 1975. A tea master performs tea ceremonies at Sho- fu-an, or “ Wind in the Pines” tea house several times each summer and early fall. Mark your calendars for the next Japanese Tea Ceremony which will take place September 25.
The Outdoors In
Under the museum’s curved wooden beams lie grand windows that add natural light to the gallery exhibits inside. As colored leaves flutter on tree branches playing with sunlight and shadows outside the museum, visitors inside enjoy the museum’s woodland setting through the large windows. Entering the museum, visitors stand in awe of a breathtaking Tiffany stained glass window, which serves as a dramatic backdrop to the Phoenix Gallery. The window had a rotting wooden frame when ACM’s first director, Ture Bengtz rescued it from the St. Paul home of Carl Weyerhaeuser’s mother, Maud Moore Weyerhaeuser Sanborn. Restored and installed at the museum, the grand window is a prelude to the magnificent art guests will see in this delightful space.
The Art Complex Museum welcomed local multimedia artist Marcia Ballou as an artist in residence during the month of July. A large outdoor mural created in Ballou’s signature joyful style can now be viewed on the museum grounds. Titled “Celebration,” the mural was inspired by a wildflower field and features a kaleidoscope of vibrant flowers, birds, dragonflies and butterflies.
The “Complex” Experience
Over the course of its 50 years of operation, the ACM has influenced many lives and continues to inspire visitors young and old.
“To many kids and some adults, the ACM gives them a first exposure to a museum and we hope a rewarding experience, so they will return, “ says Weyerhaeuser, who enjoys hearing visitors recall memories of visiting the museum as a child. “Hearing from volunteers that the ACM has been an enrichment to their lives, artists proud that they have a piece of art included in an ACM collection . . . these are gratifying as they continue to provide the benefits my parents hoped for when they built the ACM.”
A Growing Collection
The museum’s collection includes more than 8,000 pieces, and continues to grow. A committee meets regularly to discuss ideas for new acquisitions. If a member of the committee learns of a particular artist’s work, a visit to the artist’s studio may include an invitation to exhibit at the museum, followed by a purchase. A visitor can see cutting-edge contemporary art alongside works from the collection by such artists as Albrecht Durer, Childe Hassam, Thomas Hart Benton, George Bellows, Richard Estes, and many more.
It’s All FREE!
Admissions, gallery talks, concerts, tea ceremonies, and woodland sculpture walks are all free at the Art Complex Museum. Located close to fine restaurants, historic houses, ice cream shops, and Duxbury Beach, the Art Complex Museum is a great addition to any trip to Duxbury.
In 2020, ACM education coordinator Sally Dean Mello designed and spearheaded the creation of a beautiful herring run mosaic near the entrance to the museum. Inspired by the fish that was so important to the Wampanoag and English settlers, the mosaic is 23 feet long and features the handiwork of over 40 individuals from multiple South Shore towns. Lisa Howard of Local Pottery Studio + Gallery in Pembroke developed special high-fired tiles for the mosaic and project participants volunteered their time to help with the mural’s creation and contributed small rocks from Rexhame to Maine to be included.
Upcoming Museum Events
The Blue Notebooks Exhibition (September 18 - December 4).
Reception October 9, 1- 4 p.m.
Japanese Tea Ceremony (September 25 at 2 p.m.)
Shtrykov-Tanaka Piano and Clarinet Concert (October 2 at 4 p.m.)
Rotations: That 70s Print Show (September 18 - March 12, 2023)
Reception: October 9, 1 - 4 p.m.
Sarah Meyers Brent: Out Growth Exhibition (September 25 - November 27
Reception: October 9, 1 - 4 p.m.
Zefira Trio Violin, Cello, Piano Concert (Sunday, November 6 at 4 p.m.)
Woodblock Printing Workshop with BIG INK (November 12 and 13, 10 a.m. - 4 p.m.)
Annual Duxbury Art Association Juried Art Show (December 18 – March 12, 2023) Reception: December 18, 1 - 4 p.m.
For more information about the Art Complex Museum, visit artcomplex.org.