Located in Daphne, Baldwin County, the American Sport Art Museum and Archives (ASAMA) is housed in the main building on the campus of the United States Sports Academy (USSA), founded in 1972 by Thomas P. Rosandich. As an extension of its mission to promote sports in public service through research and outreach, USSA opened ASAMA in 1984 to preserve and display sports history, art, and literature. According to ASAMA, sports art celebrates athletes by upholding their moment of achievement and providing a format whereby future generations can learn about past athletic accomplishments. This relationship between art and sports education also provides the museum an opportunity to partner with USSA for continuing education through the use of works of art.
ASAMA holds one of the largest public collections of sports art in the world. The collection is housed in a three-story gallery and includes more than 1,500 pieces, including paintings, sculptures, prints, posters, photography, and assemblages (two- or three-dimensional works made from found or created objects). Displays draw awareness to the role that art plays in capturing and preserving athletic achievement and highlight the combination of athletic competition and artistic expression.
A wide variety of permanent exhibits features renowned sports artists. For example, the abstract paintings of Spanish artist Cristóbal Gabarrón are displayed on the striking Black Wall exhibit space on the museum's second floor. Additionally, 33 assemblages created and donated by artist James Ridlon depict aspects of the National Football League and are prominently displayed on the second floor around the Gabarrón exhibit. The museum also features a wide range of baseball art, including the featured exhibit "Views from the Stadium" in which lithographs by artists William Feldman, Andy Jurinko, and Bill Purdom depict views from the stands of Major League Baseball stadiums. The Main Gallery features a variety of exhibits, including official posters from the Beijing Olympic Games, the story of baseball's Negro Leagues through the eyes of artist Kadir Nelson, and a World Cup soccer exhibit. The museum receives donated works from artists throughout the world that drive the creation of temporary exhibits.
The museum also features the work of USSA's Sports Artist of the Year Award winners from 1984 to the present. ASAMA presents the annual award to the artist who best embodies the spirit of sport through artistic expression. In 2005, Daniel A. Moore was the first Alabamian to win the award for his paintings, which capture significant sports moments, mostly focusing on Alabama football. In 2007, ASAMA created the Annual College Football Game of the Year Award at Moore's request. Each year, Moore generates an original painting to capture the greatest moment of the award-winning game and donates a copy of that painting to the winning school along with a $5,000 donation from ASAMA to the school's general scholarship fund.
The Artist of the Year and the Game of the Year are just two of 20 awards presented at the USSA's Awards of Sports program, which recognizes a wide range of accomplishments in the world of sport, including coaching, athletic achievement, humanitarian activity, courage, and excellence in sports media. The main lobby features bronze medallions that highlight the Sports Artist of the Year as well as 12 winners of USSA's awards as part of its annual medallion series. The 1987 and 1990 Sports Artists of the Year, John Robinson and Blair Buswell, designed the bronze medallions that honor these award recipients.
Outside of the building is Heritage Plaza, which includes a Walk of Fame that was dedicated in 1998 as part of the academy's 25th anniversary celebration. The installation consists of more than 2,000 bricks honoring persons of significance to the academy, including athletes, elected officials, financial donors, graduates, and foreign dignitaries. The brick walkway leads to a two-story mural commemorating Jackie Robinson's role in breaking the color barrier in Major League Baseball; it was painted by Gabarrón in honor of the academy's 25th anniversary as well. A sculpture park outside the main facility features works by Bruce Larsen, who is based in Fairhope, Baldwin County, and creates his artwork predominantly from found objects. For example, Larsen's sculpture entitled Borzov the Sprinter honors Russian sprinter and Olympic gold medalist Valery Borzov.
ASAMA is open to the public for individual or group tours free of charge. The museum offers a self-guided walking tour through the exhibit space and also provides guided tours. ASAMA operates as a nonprofit organization under the umbrella of the USSA's nonprofit designation. Operations at the museums are carried out by USSA employees. As a nonprofit organization, the museum is funded through donations and gifts to USSA that have been earmarked for the museum.
Published April 18, 2014
Last updated August 18, 2014