Who’s Who – Louise Irvine

In Women’s History Month, we are paying tribute to our illustrious leader, Louise Irvine. Louise wears many hats at WMODA. She is the Executive Director responsible for the administration of the museum, which has been particularly challenging during the pandemic. She is also the curator of the WMODA collection and creates all the museum exhibits and installations. Looking back through this pictorial history of WMODA exhibits and events from 2014 to the present, we can see how Louise has fired our imaginations both live and virtually in many ways.

Louise is an expert in the history of Royal Doulton, which is how she came to know Arthur Wiener, who has acquired the biggest collection in the world. Her first exhibition The Doulton Story was held at the Victoria & Albert Museum in 1979 and she went on to initiate the Royal Doulton International Collectors Club. For ten years, she wrote articles for the Club magazine and produced numerous reference books for collectors as well as international traveling exhibits. In 1990, she co-starred in the Royal Doulton Story documentary with the famous actor Patrick Macnee. Louise was held in such high esteem in the Royal Doulton world that she was portrayed as a character jug by the Peggy Davies studio and one is on display at WMODA.

Not surprisingly, interpreting Arthur Wiener’s vast Royal Doulton collection was first on Louise’s agenda at WMODA and she curated the popular Flair for Fashion exhibition of figurines which ran for years due to popular demand. At that time, the Art Institute of Fort Lauderdale was flourishing, and Louise worked with the fashion students to present fantasy gowns inspired by the collection. This idea was reprised in 2015 for the Splash exhibit, which opened with a spectacular runway show of swimwear and extravagant costumes reflecting the ocean. See what’s new for the next Fashion and the Fired Arts project with Chelsea Rousso on April 17.

The beauty of nature in all its forms has been reflected in many of Louise’s exhibits from the Seduction of the Flower in 2015 to Christopher Marley’s Biophilia in 2017 to porcelain birds in Flights of Fancy in 2019. Now she is inviting everyone to Dive into WMODA to see more wonders of the deep in ceramic art. Most recently, Louise has been exploring the four elements Earth, Air, Fire and Water for a new exhibit of glass art.

Glass is hot at WMODA and Louise has plunged into the American studio glass movement to present the work of Dale Chihuly and other modern masters in the Wiener collection. The museum’s iconic Macchia forest draws visitors daily and it was a sensational loan exhibit at the Smithsonian Museum when Chihuly received the Visionary Award in 2016. The ongoing Art on Fire exhibit at WMODA traces the influence of Chihuly and the Murano maestros on a new generation of glass artists including Rob Stern, whose work is featured in the spectacular Constellations installation.

Providing a platform for contemporary artists in our community has been an important aspect of Louise’s work at WMODA and their designs are sold in the museum’s curated Studio Collection shop, which benefits local artists and the Wiener Museum. Louise’s first job as a young Fine Arts graduate from Edinburgh University was working with contemporary Scottish crafts sold at Glasgow Museum shop. Louise is passionate about creating and sustaining a thriving arts community in South Florida with a laser focus on the fired arts of ceramics and glass.

As well as local enterprises, Louise avidly promotes the work of the Ardmore Ceramic Studio in South Africa. Arthur Wiener began collecting the amazing work of the Zulu artists in 2010 after Louise wrote about her first visit to their studio. She installed an Ardmore gallery at WMODA, which was opened by the studio’s founder, Fée Halsted, in 2016, and it has become one of the most popular attractions at the museum. The exhibit Safari for the Soul with the vividly colored Ardmore fabric designs helped entertain and sustain us during the darkest hours of the pandemic.

All this is thirsty work, so Louise brought the British ritual of afternoon tea to Dania Beach in 2015. The Art of Tea exhibition tells the story of tea drinking from its Chinese origins to the Tango tea dances of the Art Deco era. Over the years, Louise has hosted many traditional tea parties at WMODA including a royal Queen Victoria celebration to preview the popular TV show for PBS South Florida.

The entertainment world has been a recurring theme at WMODA with Louise’s show-stopping exhibits Stage & Screen and Carnival & Cabaret. Many WMODA guests have enjoyed her fabulous lecture presentations about Flappers, Vamps & Divas celebrating the Art Deco era and they have even turned out in Great Gatsby outfits for the occasion. Fantasy pervades many of the costume parties that Louise has hosted at WMODA from Halloween Howls to Venetian Masquerades.

Louise loves exploring the enchanted world of ceramic art in the Fantastique exhibit, which now has a spectacular Lladró chandelier as the centerpiece. She has also been Bowled over by Fairyland while working on lectures, articles, and videos about the imaginative Wedgwood designer, Daisy Makeig Jones. Now WMODA is reveling in marine fantasies as mermaids are coming soon to Dania Beach, courtesy of the 1000 Mermaids Project. Visitors can rise to the challenge of Louise’s latest trivia trail around the museum with the Mermaid Quest scavenger hunt.

Louise researches and writes all of the articles about the WMODA collection for the museum’s monthly newsletter Through the Looking Glass. There are now more than 300 stories to enjoy so just enter the topic of interest in the search button of the WMODA website to find out more about the fired arts at www.wmoda.com. Come see the fired arts through Louise’s eyes as she creates a world of Fantasy, Fashion & Fun at WMODA.