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Miami alumnus represented in Clooney's new Hollywood film

By Nick Ramsey
On February 21, 2014

George Clooney movies and Miami University have a history. In 2011, he filmed part of "The Ides of March" in and around the Farmer School of Business.

Clooney's latest movie "Monuments Men" may not have been filmed on campus, but one of the 345 real-life Monuments Men is a Miami alumnus and Co-Founder of the Miami University Art Museum, 801 South Patterson Ave.

Walter Farmer earned his Bachelor of Arts in Architecture from Miami in 1935 and enlisted in the military in 1942. In 1945, he joined the Monuments, Fine Arts, and Archives (MFAA), a group later known as the Monuments Men.

During World War II, the Germans had a scorched earth policy where they would destroy anything that might be useful to the enemy as they retreated, including Art.

That's where the Monuments Men came in.

Miami University Art Museum Director Robert Wicks said their duty was crucial to saving the artwork.

"Their job was to ensure that this cultural heritage was not sacrificed by this regime," Wicks said.

After the war, there were still hundreds of thousands of pieces of art that had to be identified, possibly restored, and returned to the rightful owners. Walter Farmer was director of the Wiesbaden Collection Point, according to the Monuments Men Foundation, where they oversaw thousands of pieces of art that had been stored in mines during the war.

According to the Monuments Men Foundation website, "Upon his return to the U.S. in 1946, Farmer continued his work as an interior decorator and in 1949 he opened his own firm, Greenwich House Interiors, in Cincinnati which he owned and operated until his death in 1997."

While working as an interior designer, Farmer was also busy working on his collection of art from all over the world, according to Wicks.

Last fall, the Miami University Art Museum celebrated its 35th anniversary, and has greatly benefited from the donations of Walter Farmer. His donations exceed those of any other person in terms of range, quantity, and design, according to Wicks.

"It's in the thousands, part of it depends on how you count the pieces," Wicks said, "The safer number would be 10 to 15 percent, but it's not about the numbers, it's has to do the range. He collected pieces from all over the world."

Farmer's collection of art spans from Pre-Columbian, Ancient Roman glass, Central American textiles, Ancient Greek ceramics, and many more.

Wicks said he thinks the publicity from Walter Farmer and "Monuments Men" will be good for the art museum.

"It's a fortunate moment in time, the only unfortunate thing is the movie itself," Wicks said.

The museum has about 12,000 students come though each year, but the majority of that is for classroom purposes.

"We would like to change that, but many other campus museums have that same problem," Wicks said. "We are using social media to get the word out." Wicks said.

The art museum has a big challenge on their hands.

First-year Addie Lottman said she would like to visit the museum sometime soon.

"I'll probably go before I graduate, but I honestly didn't know it existed."

Senior chemistry major Cole McMath said he has been to the museum before and enjoyed his experience.

"I went for an event last semester," McMath said. "It's very cool because it's different than the rest of campus."

Senior Tom Terlep admitted he has never been, but said he still thinks the Art Museum is valuable to campus.

"It's nice that it's accessible here as opposed to going to a major city like Chicago or New York to see art," Terlep said.

The Miami University Art Museum has many ways to get involved. There are currently five galleries at the museum, two of which are permanent, and most of the galleries have linkage to either faculty or programs on campus.


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