Smart Museum earns $300,000 NEH grant to support major traveling exhibition

The Smart Museum of Art was awarded a $300,000 implementation grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities in support of Echoes of the Past: The Buddhist Cave Temples of Xiangtangshan, a major traveling exhibition that explores one of the earliest and most important Buddhist pilgrimage sites in China. The funds from the grant will be used to support the exhibition's national tour to museums in Washington D.C., Dallas and San Diego.

"We are pleased to have received such generous support from the NEH for this project," said Anthony Hirschel, the Dana Feitler Director of the Smart Museum of Art. "The story of Xiangtangshan is truly remarkable, and the grant will help to spread important new scholarship and engage people across the country with the magnificent sculptures and history of the temple caves."

On view at the Smart Museum from Sept. 30, 2010 through Jan. 16, 2011, Echoes of the Past will mix ancient sculpture with a set of innovative digital components to shed new light on the original beauty and meaning of the Buddhist cave temples of Xiangtangshan. Carved into the limestone cliffs in the mountains of northern China, the cave temples were the crowning cultural achievement of the sixth-century Northern Qi dynasty. The caves were despoiled in the first half of the 20th century and have recently become the focus of an international research and reconstruction project based at the University of Chicago.

Organized by the Smart Museum and the Smithsonian Institution's Arthur M. Sackler Gallery, Echoes of the Past showcases these efforts to digitally reconstruct and recontextualize the dispersed objects. After its Chicago debut, the exhibition will travel to the Sackler Gallery (Feb. 26-July 31, 2011), the Meadows Museum at Southern Methodist University (August-December 2011), and the San Diego Museum of Art (January-April 2012).

Founded in 1974, the Smart Museum is home to acclaimed special exhibitions and a permanent collection that spans five thousand years of artistic creation. Working in close collaboration with scholars from the University of Chicago, the Smart has established itself as a leading academic art museum and an engine of adventurous thinking about the visual arts and their place in society.

Created in 1965 as an independent federal agency, the National Endowment for the Humanities supports learning in history, literature, philosophy and other areas of the humanities.