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National Endowment for the Arts Awards $20,000 to the George Eastman Museum

Rochester, N.Y., December 8, 2015—The George Eastman Museum has received a grant award of $20,000 from the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) for the museum’s preservation of Highlights and Shadows (US 1937), a film by James Sibley Watson Jr. Today, the NEA announced awards totaling more than $27.6 million in its first funding round of fiscal year 2016, including this Art Works award to the Eastman Museum.

Doctor, author, editor, publisher, and experimental filmmaker James Sibley Watson Jr. was born to wealth and privilege through the union of two of Rochester’s most prestigious and successful families. He was the grandson of Don Alonzo Watson and Hiram Sibley, the founders of Western Union, and his mother, Emily Sibley Watson, founder of Rochester’s Memorial Art Gallery, instilled in him an appreciation of art and culture that informed his life.

Highlights and Shadows is Watson’s stunning solo effort to illuminate the complex mechanisms and inventions that produce motion pictures. The film, which was made as an industrial film for the Eastman Kodak Research Laboratories, utilizes all of the devices of sharp-angled lighting and multiple exposures of Watson’s previous works and remains a superior example of the influence of the avant-garde in the corporate realm of filmmaking.

“Individually and collectively, the seminal films of James Sibley Watson Jr. are today considered cornerstones of the American avant-garde film movement,” said Paolo Cherchi Usai, senior curator, Moving Image Department, George Eastman Museum.  “Highlights and Shadows is not only a classic of the avant-garde genre, but remains innovative and influential works of superior amateur filmmaking.”

The original 35mm nitrate masters of Highlights and Shadows require preservation negatives and new projection prints to be created by the museum’s Moving Image Department. The Eastman Museum’s digital team will work on a full digital restoration and digital transfer of the film as well. In addition to state-of-the-art photochemical prints, new high-quality digital elements will restore Watson’s original image quality, providing much greater access to the film. When the project is complete, the restored prints and digital copies of Highlights and Shadows will be made available for public screenings and research study at the George Eastman Museum and to other nonprofit and educational venues for screenings worldwide.

NEA Chairman Jane Chu said, “The arts are part of our everyday lives—no matter who you are or where you live—they have the power to transform individuals, spark economic vibrancy in communities, and transcend the boundaries across diverse sectors of society. Supporting projects like the one from the George Eastman Museum offers more opportunities to engage in the arts every day.”

Through its grant-making to thousands of nonprofits each year, the NEA promotes opportunities for people in communities across America to experience the arts and exercise their creativity. The Art Works category supports the creation of work and presentation of both new and existing work, lifelong learning in the arts, and public engagement with the arts through thirteen arts disciplines or fields. For more information on projects included in the NEA grant announcement, go to arts.gov.

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