New CAM building opened in 2002
St. John's Museum of Art (1964-2001)
Architechts Charles Gwathmey and Robert Seigel
"Battle of Forks Road" February 20, 1865
Cameron Art Museum located in Wilmington, North Carolina occupies a 42,000 square foot facility designed in 2002 by the renowned architectural firm of Gwathmey Siegel & Associates (NYC). The museum is sited on 9.3 acre Pyramid Park, features long-leaf pine woodlands, outdoor sculptures, nature trails, an historic Civil War site and Clay Studio housed in the Pancoe Art Education Center. The main museum building includes two exhibition areas, the Weyerhaeuser lecture and reception hall, a full service museum café known as CaféJohnnie, museum gift shop and free parking.
Cameron Art Museum was formerly named St. John’s Museum of Art, operating 1962-2001 in a cluster of historic buildings located in downtown Wilmington. In the mid-1990’s, St. John’s Museum was in need of better environmental conditions and expanded space.
In 1997, the Museum trustees launched a capital campaign and began a search for the new building site. After exhausting efforts to secure appropriate property in the downtown area, the newly-named Cameron Art Museum opened at the intersection of south 17th and Independence Streets, conveniently located between the downtown and beach communities.
Cameron Art Museum is a cultural gathering place committed to arts education. The museum presents exhibitions and public programs of both historical and contemporary significance, with 6-8 changing exhibitions annually, in addition to outdoor, site-specific projects on its park property.
The museum also presents lively, ongoing family and children's programs each month; Alzheimers “Connections” tours for patients and their caretakers; ongoing interdisciplinary public programs (lectures, music, films, literature, dance); adult and youth art education and healthy living classes at The Museum School and workshops, classes and demonstrations in ceramic arts at the Clay Studio, overseen by resident master artist Hiroshi Sueyoshi.
The Museum's permanent collection of fine arts, crafts and design includes work by artists of national and international significance, including works by North Carolina artists. Selected works from the permanent collection are exhibited periodically in thematic exhibitions. The Museum’s collection includes many vulnerable works on paper, and is therefore not kept on view permanently given conservation concerns of sustained damage from prolonged exposure to light.
Robert Siegel graduated from Pratt Institute with a Bachelor of Architecture degree in 1962 and received his Master of Architecture degree from Harvard University in 1963. In 1983, the New York Chapter of the American Institute of Architects recognized Mr. Siegel's skill and leadership as an architect with its Medal of Honor. He received the Pratt Institute Centennial Alumni Award in Architecture in 1988 and in 1990 accepted a Lifetime Achievement Award from the New York State Society of Architects.
Charles Gwathmey, born in Charlotte, N.C. was the only child of two artists: social-realist painter Robert Gwathmey, and photographer Rosalie Hook Gwathmey. Gwathmey received his undergraduate degree from the University of Pennsylvania, and a graduate degree from Yale University, where he studied under the legendary Paul Rudolph. Soon after leaving Yale, the architect designed a 1200 square foot home and studio for his parents in Long Island (1966). That widely celebrated project quickly established his name as one of the new stars of the American architectural scene. For over thirty years, Gwathmey and partner Robert Siegel designed many residences, public buildings and spaces designed for art: museums, galleries, schools for art and architecture, and collectors’ homes.
The museum's grounds include a significant site of one of the last battles of the Civil War, known as "Battle of Forks Road," fought on February 20, 1865 just before the fall of the city and the subsequent collapse of the Confederate forces. After the fall of Fort Fisher following the largest naval bombardment to date in US history, Union troops marched up the Cape Fear peninsula to capture Wilmington North Carolina and seal off the Confederate Army's last remaining port. Lining the edge of the Museum grounds are confederate revetments built during the Battle of Forks Road in the last days of the Civil War.
Cameron Art Museum in North Carolina commemorates the cultural significance of this site and the unique, and poignant role played by African American troops (some of whom were ex-slaves), with an annual “Civil War Living History Weekend” event, featuring Civil War reenactors, lectures, workshops, artillery demonstrations and children’s period games. The museum's Civil War site is also a source of additional programming leading up to the 150th Sesquicentennial of the Civil War.
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