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Randolph College Opens 100th Annual Exhibition Sept. 2

Exhibition is the longest-running series of original exhibitions of contemporary art staged by a U.S. academic institution

8/26/2011 1:25:15 PM


LYNCHBURG—When Randolph College opens its 100th Annual Exhibition of Contemporary Art: The Vision Endures on September 2, the College will be celebrating a continuing commitment to art education that has lasted for a century.

Randolph will hold its Annual Exhibition—the longest-running series of original exhibitions of contemporary art staged by any academic institution in the United States—with an impressive line-up of important American artists that includes David Bates, Jake Berthot, Lee Bontecou, Richard Estes, Sam Gilliam, Alexis Rockman, Betye Saar, Kiki Smith, Joan Snyder, Donald Sultan, John Walker, and William Wiley.

“We are honored to celebrate an important milestone in the history of the College with such a talented group of American artists,” said John E. Klein, Randolph’s president. “Randolph’s commitment to art education continues, and the collection remains a vital addition to the liberal arts educational program offered to students.”

The 2011 exhibition will be held in the Maier Museum of Art at Randolph College from September 2 through December 10 with an additional exhibition featuring more than a dozen works that were purchased by the College from previous Annual Exhibitions. Among the artists represented in this companion exhibition are Joseph Cornell, Ben Shahn, and John Sloan.

In addition to a catalogue for the 2011 exhibition featuring the exhibited works by contemporary artists, the College will also publish a full-color, hardcover, illustrated timeline catalogue of the 100-year history of the Annual Exhibition in honor of the event. Virginia M. Mecklenburg, a senior curator of painting and sculpture at the Smithsonian American Art Museum and granddaughter of Carrie Crane Kearney (Class of 1915) has written the catalogue’s introduction. She will moderate a panel discussion by several of the featured artists for the 20th Annual Helen Clark Berlind Symposium on Oct. 22 at 2 p.m.

“Today, 100 years after the opening of the first Annual Exhibition, the College’s early commitment to providing not only equal access to high quality education for women but an ‘environment of culture’ has left an enviable legacy,” Mecklenburg writes in the catalogue introduction.

Louise Jordan Smith was one of the first five resident professors when the College opened its doors as Randolph-Macon Woman’s College in 1891. In 1900 she declared, “I want an annual loan exhibition. This exhibition must contain only the best work that is done anywhere…it should be understood that each year the best pictures should be bought for a permanent collection. If the history of our nation may be foreseen by the light which other nations give us, we may know that our influence will last longest through our art.”

Always with a focus on American art, the College’s collection began in 1907 and has been built over the decades with both careful consideration and intuitive risk-taking.

The first exhibition, installed in 1911, featured French and American paintings borrowed from the collection of New York businessman and philanthropist Roger C. Ogden. Since that time, the College has held exhibitions featuring a variety of artists and themes, ranging from an exhibition featuring Picasso and Prendergast to another featuring European artists such as Cézanne, Auguste Renoir and AndréDerain.

Exhibitions were presented at various locations on the College’s campus until 1953, when the 42nd Annual Exhibition was held in what is now called the Maier Museum of Art at Randolph College. The facility was constructed after the National Gallery of Art chose the College to be the site of a confidential storage facility in the event of a national emergency. In exchange for the ownership and eventual use of the structure the College agreed to maintain the facility and to make it available for emergency use by the National Gallery of Art for a period not to exceed 50 years. Construction was completed in 1952, and the building was called “the art gallery” by faculty, staff, and students.

In the 50s, 60s, and early 70s the College used the front rooms of the Art Gallery to display portions of its notable art collection and for special exhibitions. The Art Gallery was not fully utilized by the College until the middle 1970s when the National Endowment for the Arts funded renovations. More renovations were completed in 1981, and the College renamed the facility the Maier Museum of Art after an endowment was established in 1983 by the Sarah and Pauline Maier Scholarship Foundation. The purpose of the renovated Maier was to function as a gallery and a location suitable for the College’s art programs and as an arts center for the community.

Careful acquisitions from each of the Annuals have been an important component of the development of Randolph College’s outstanding collection of American art, chiefly oil paintings, works on paper and photographs dating from the 19th, 20th, and 21st centuries. With a century-long focus on contemporary American art, the collection includes many pieces by highly-regarded artists, such as Mary Cassatt, Edward Hopper, and Elizabeth Murray. The College acquired many of its contemporary artworks from the artists themselves during their lifetimes, including works by Georgia O’Keefe and John Marin that were acquired directly from photographer and dealer Alfred Stieglitz.

In her essay for the exhibition’s catalog, Mecklenburg writes, “The strength of the annual exhibition at what is now Randolph College lies in its fluidity. It has been a kind of proving ground for testing ideas. The exhibitions have presented beautiful objects, and they have responded to the multiple interests of those studying art, art history, science, philosophy, and so many other areas of human endeavor. Even a casual glance through the chronology of artists presented shows that the program has been innovative, designed to provoke visual and intellectual inquiry that illuminates individual lives and the multivalent world we live in.”


The opening reception for The Vision Endures will be held on Friday, September 2 from 6-8 p.m., as part of Lynchburg’s “First Fridays” gallery walk offerings. A special reception for Randolph community members only will be held at 5 p.m.

Randolph College will also publish a full-color, hardcover, illustrated timeline of the 100-year history of the Annual Exhibition. The book will be available for sale beginning in September for $29.95. Randolph will also offer a catalogue of paintings from the exhibition featuring contemporary artists

Mecklenburgwill moderate a panel discussion by several of the featured artists for the 20th Annual Helen Clark Berlind Symposium on Oct. 22 at 2 p.m.

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CONTACT: Brenda Edson, Director of College Relations


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