Gallery to Celebrate 30 Years

Today-and-Tomorrow.jpgThirty years ago, the Ashby-Hodge Gallery of American Art opened its doors in the lower level of Smiley Library, on the campus of then Central Methodist College. After three years of work, from fundraising to collecting to renovating, the space opened for the first time with a gala on October 29, 1993.

This year, to celebrate the 30th anniversary, the Gallery will open a show in its current home in Classic Hall. Many things have changed over the last three decades for the Gallery, but the tradition of honoring American artists on the Fayette campus has certainly not waned.

Opening on April 30, the anniversary show will feature many of the same works that were included in that first show, all from the collection of Dr. Lawrence Ashby ’42 and his wife, Loretta. The collection of around 150 works was donated to the Gallery, establishing the permanent collection which now features more than 1200 pieces in total.

“We started with the Ashby collection, and it’s just grown and grown,” said Dr. Joe Geist, registrar of the Gallery and co-founder, along with the late Tom Yancey. “We now have a board of 16 people and 30 docents, and we’re always continuing to grow.”

The donation of the Ashby collection and the work of Geist and Yancey were crucial steps in getting the Gallery up and running, but none of it would have been possible if not for the other half of the institution’s namesake, the Hodge family. Dr. Robert ’42 and Anna Mae Besgrove Hodge ’44 helped provide the primary funding for the Gallery, along with the Central class of 1943, as a celebration of the class’s 50-year anniversary in 1993. From there, it was a long process to finally establish the Gallery in Smiley Library, but it has all been worth it as the collection and the recognition have continued to amass.

“[The Gallery] has gone from the ground up and become this gem,” said Tyler Pierson, curator. “It’s grown into this wonderful opportunity to bring communities into the university, and it’s very exciting to continue to see it grow.”

While the Gallery and the permanent collection have continued to grow and prosper, the anniversary celebration will be going back to the start, with original pieces of the Ashby collection on display from the end of April through the middle of July. Geist and Pierson plan to utilize all three rooms of the Gallery and the lobby to display as many of the 150 Ashby pieces as possible. The collection includes a number of media, including oil paintings, lithographs, drawings, and acrylics, representing the work of 45 different artists.

Many of the pieces on display will feature the American Regionalist style, popularized by Thomas Hart Benton. His work and that of several of his students – Fayette native Roger Medearis, Daniel Celentano, Charles Pollock, Robert MacDonald Graham Jr., Earl Bennett, William Kautzman, James Duard Marshall, Jackson Lee Nesbitt, and William W. McKim – will be featured in the show. Other featured artists from the collection include Birger Sandzen, Charles Banks Wilson, Federic Remington, Aaron Bohrod, Frederick Shane, and Randall Davey.

All these artists and more will be on display for the anniversary show beginning April 30, running until July 20. The Gallery will be open from 1:30 to 4:30 p.m. on Sundays, Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays. Appointments to see the show can also be made by calling 660-248-6304. The Gallery is located on the first floor of Classic Hall on the Central Methodist University campus in Fayette.

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