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Introducing “Inspired by Mia,” a site for artwork influenced by Mia’s collection

By Katie Sisneros, a content analyst and Mellon/ACLS Public Fellow at Mia

When you think of an art museum, what sort of actions spring to mind? Walking, for sure. Lots of walking happens in art museums. Looking, thinking, feeling, laughing, crying…all of these are very personal actions we perform when we inhabit an art museum’s space. But what about “creating”? Art museums tend to feel like places where the creating has already taken place; it’s in the past tense. Galleries upon galleries of objects have already been created, the work is already done.

But now Mia is encouraging creation within its walls. Make art of your own, inspired by the museum’s collection, and we’ll share it on our new site called Inspired by Mia. It’s easy to submit images and videos for review.

Seriously. Look at that goofy grin.

We know you’re out there. We see you, perched on the edges of our in-gallery seating, a notebook in your lap and a pencil in your hand, smudging the contours of The Doryphoros with a finger or capturing the Celestial Horse’s goofy grin. Because the truth is, art museums shouldn’t just be spaces for the created. They should be spaces for creating, re-creating, imagining, re-imagining, of feeling inspired and doing something about it.

Anne Towner’s colored pencil sketch of Portrait of Countess Maria Theresia Bucqoui, née Parr, by Élisabeth Louise Vigée-LeBrun

Anne Towner knows that feeling. “I love walking into Mia,” she says. “It always fills me with a sense of awe when I enter. I have visited many museums over the years, including the Louvre in Paris, and the Prado in Madrid, but Mia will always have a special place in my heart.”

Anne was inspired to create colorful sketches of some of Mia’s most beloved paintings. “When I sketch a painting, it gives me a deeper understanding of the piece,” she says. “It gives me time to slow down and  appreciate the tiny details in the work and learn about the history behind the piece. For example, If I hadn’t sketched Countess Maria Theresia Bucquoi, I would never have learned the fascinating history of her artist Elizabeth Vigee Lebrun. Sitting and drawing at Mia is one of my favorite ways to spend my free time.”

All artwork has a medium. Oil on canvas. Lithograph on paper. MP3 file. But why can’t van Gogh’s Olive Trees be a pencil sketch? Or Picasso’s Baboon and Young bronze statue be a song? What if, as artist Kent Gay thought, one of Mia’s oldest objects—made of thick, stable, if it falls over it breaks marble—was rendered digital? “Different media in the collection inspire a different approach and new exploration,” Kent says. “When I studied and drew from the Torso of a Dancing Faun, I was responding to the subtle play of light and shadow on the marble surface of the sculpture and I worked with layered transparent color to suggest the light shifting across the form.”

Kent Gay’s digital drawing of Torso of a Dancing Faun, firstt century.

For Kent, being inspired by Mia doesn’t mean mimicking or attempting to recreate something. “I also draw from life but by drawing from the art at Mia I’m also able to enjoy, interpret, and somehow introduce myself and have a conversation with another maker from art history.”As the American painter Robert Henri said, in a quote that has inspired Kent, “A drawing is not a copy. It is a construction in very different materials. A drawing is an invention.”

 A drawing is not a copy. It is a construction in very different materials. A drawing is an invention.”

So this is a call to action: Has Mia inspired you to create? Awesome. Show us. Take a spin through Mia’s galleries or browse our Open Access collections page, with high-resolution images and metadata, and tap into the million-plus objects in our collection that aren’t on view.

We hope this invitation helps eliminate the barriers between viewing and creating, between the art on the wall and the art on your sketchpad. So that Mia can be a place where your creative contributions are not only welcome but a crucial component of the museum’s identity—a part, in a way, of the collection.

Check out the current submissions, then show us how you get Inspired by Mia.

Top image: Mike Larson, pen sketch of The Borghese Gladiator by Joseph Venache; Abigail Davis, pen sketch of The Algerian by Charles-Henri-Joseph Cordier; Kent Gay, digital drawing of Cock or Chanticleer by William Hunt Diederich; Anne Towner, color pencil sketch of Lucretia, by Rembrandt Harmenszoon van Rijn.