Chuck Olson, abstract expressionist painter, serves as the keynote speaker for the opening reception at the M.I.B. Gallery of the Colonial Arts Center Saturday evening. The ‘20th Century Masters’ exhibit is on display Fridays and Saturdays from 4 to 8 p.m. through Saturday, July 3.

‘Another landmark moment for Buckhannon’: ’20th Century Masters’ art exhibit on display through July 3

BUCKHANNON – Artworks created by a dozen of the 20th century’s most acclaimed artists were unveiled Saturday at the M.I.B. Gallery of the Colonial Arts Center at 48 Main Street.

They will remain on display each Friday and Saturday from 4 to 8 p.m. through Saturday, July 3.

The display is on loan from West Virginia Wesleyan College and is the ‘For Meyer Schapiro’ collection, which includes works by Stanley William Hayter, Jasper Johns, Ellsworth Kelly, Alexander Liberman, Roy Lichtenstein, Andre Masson, Robert Motherwell, Claes Oldenburg, Robert Rauschenberg, Saul Steinberg, Frank Stella and Andy Warhol.

Bryson VanNostrand, president of ART26201, welcomed those gathering for the opening of the display on Saturday.

“This is another landmark moment for Buckhannon,” VanNostrand said. “We have been renovating the Colonial Theatre which started as a dream in 2014. The City of Buckhannon bought the building in 2016, and we have been writing grants and coordinating renovations ever since. This part of the building (the M.I.B. Gallery) is ready to be used and, if we are lucky, the rest of the building will be ready by October.”

VanNostrand said as far as he knows, downtown Buckhannon has never had an art gallery before.

“We believe the arts change the community,” VanNostrand said. “They change the quality of living, make life worth living and so we want art. We hope this space will continue to get the arts out to all of us and make it [as much a] part of a daily awareness as we can make it.”

Bryson VanNostrand, president of ART26201, welcomes those gathered Saturday, June 12 for the opening reception of the ‘20th Century Masters’ exhibit at the M.I.B. Gallery of the Colonial Arts Center. The display features a dozen pieces from well-known and acclaimed artists like Andy Warhol and Roy Lichtenstein.

He said the collection is rare, and the prints were representative of some of the biggest names in 20th century modern art.

“Wesleyan has owned these for nearly 45 years,” VanNostrand said. “We learned from Brett Miller, archivist at West Virginia Wesleyan College, that these treasures were there. Once we learned they were there, we schemed how to exhibit them.”

Miller said he was thankful the collection was getting the prominence it deserves.

“I am pleased to acknowledge the donation from the West Virginia Wesleyan College senior class was a donation to help, in part, put up an art rail display system in the WVWC Library which will allow these pieces, which have been in storage, to have a permanent home where they can be displayed and appreciated in the way they always should have been,” Miller said.

Miller said the frames that held the pieces were inadequate and said ART26201 generously paid to have the collection reframed. In exchange, Wesleyan gave ART26201 the green light to display the exhibit publicly in downtown Buckhannon.

ART26201 member k.b. saine introduced the guest speaker for the evening, abstract expressionist painter Chuck Olson. Saine said Olson has hundreds of personal shows, juried exhibitions and group shows he has taken part in over the years in the U.S.

“Also, he has had shows in France, Japan, Scotland and Bermuda,” saine said. “Hopefully, he will be showing his work here in the future in Buckhannon. He has been a college professor. He is a sculptor, a ceramicist and he works in mixed media. He is also a musician.”

k.b. saine, with ART26201, introduces the guest speaker for the evening, abstract expressionist painter Chuck Olson.

Olson said to adequately contexualize the works featured in the show would probably take two weeks of college classes.

“What I want to address is the modern masters as a whole,” Olson said. “In 1945, European modernism surrendered to American modernism. Who defines this? Artists are motivated by change and some of the harbingers of that change.”

Olson said to have all of these artists’ work together in one place is really something.

“This is a wonderful collection,” Olson said. “Modern art is the period from 1890 to 1985. We are in the post-modern period now. Modernism is about teaching how free you can be. What you have in this room is artists that were experimenting with [the question of] ‘What does it mean in large part to be a part of American society at a time when it explodes with new energy?’ That new energy is different from the old energy.”

Olson said the reason the art display is going to be there for several weeks is so viewers can get a second look.

“You need to come back,” Olson said. “I never go through an art museum and have to see everything – I treat it like a library – I want to go and see a few things and then I come back.”

Olson said he feels Buckhannon residents are very fortunate.

“The fact that the [college] is working with the art organizations here to get these framed and get this done means they come out into the light – they are now taken care of like an elder,” Olson said. “They will live at least another 100 years in this town. These are also wells that attract something else – a student or a cause.”

Colin Reger and his wife, Jessica, attended Saturday’s opening with their children Keegan and Ellie. Colin Reger said he felt it was important for his family to attend exhibits like the ‘20th Century Masters’ and expose his children to art because he said today folks live in day where creativity is frowned upon.

“Everything has to be black or white, so we think it is important to expose our children to cultural things so they can see that you do not have to express yourself the way they always have to tell you, especially with this particular exhibit and these artists,” Colin Reger said. “You can express yourself however you want – whether it is visual art or music or whatever.”

He said he and his wife were explaining to their children to look at the articles and try to discover what the artist was trying to convey.

“What are they trying to say?” Colin Reger said. “We are exposing them to things they would normally not be exposed to.”

Jessica Reger said their children are homeschooled.

“I feel in order to incorporate the arts into their lives and their curriculum, it is important to visit different shows and galleries,” Jessica Reger said.

“Holistic education is important to us,” Colin Reger added. “Science, math and technology is important. But if you are not well versed in the arts, you are missing a big part of human expression and the human experience.”

During Saturday’s opening, Miller, the archivist at Wesleyan’s library, explained the collection came to WVWC in 1976. According to a previous story, an excerpt provided by ART26201 says the collection came to be when the 12 artists put together their original lithographs, etchings and silk screens in an edition of 100 portfolios titled “For Meyer Schapiro,” in honor of Schapiro’s 70th birthday. Schapiro, who was a great art history teacher, lecturer and scholar “played a pivotal role in defending and supporting the growth of this avant-garde art movement and consequently became one of its primary intellectual champions,” the writeup by ART26201 says.

The history of the collection reveals that it was on display at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in 1974 in New York and was sold to raise funds for the endowment of a chair in Dr. Schapiro’s name in the Department of Art History at Columbia University. The total needed was $750,000 which was reached in 1978 after the portfolios’ sales and an influx of private donations.

Modernist painter Barnett Newman was a good friend of Schapiro but passed away in 1970, so his wife, Annalee Newman, contributed to the fund and subsequently received six portfolios. Newman was impressed with work of the chair of the West Virginia Wesleyan College Art Department, William B. Oldaker, and she donated one of the portfolios to WVWC in 1976. According to the excerpt, Newman ‘wanted to give interested young people the opportunity of seeing as much good art-great art – as they possibly can.”

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