Faro, The Lighthouse at Livorno, Italy, During a Storm" by
Athos Menaboni from the Collection of Russell Clayton.
By Cheryl Anderson Brown
It is tucked
into unexpected corners. It dominates the main entrance to the James V.
Carmichael Student Center and the Joe Mack Wilson Building. It stops you
in your tracks as you notice Rembrandts signature on your way to
Art abounds at Kennesaw State University. With a Permanent
Collection of more than 400 pieces valued in the millions, the university
has earned a reputation for art appreciation that continues to attract
art collectors and their gifts (click here to see
some of their gifts). We have been fortunate in our friends,
said Joseph Meeks, dean of the KSU School of the Arts. Their love
of art has helped us build an outstanding collection that serves both
our students and the community.
The first of these friends was a pair of collectors from Marietta, Fred
Bentley Sr. and J. Alan Sellars. In 1972, the two men donated the
first pieces, including two etchings, two lithographs and one woodblock
print from the 1940 Venice Biennale. Together and individually, Bentley
and Sellars continued contributing every year until Sellars death,
and Bentleys gifts still arrive every December like a visit from
Santa Claus, as retired KSU Professor of Art Thomson Salter once noted.
I grew up in an area where there were no museums, no art anywhere,
Bentley noted recently, and I vowed there would never be another
student who didnt have art if I could help it.
Over the years, the collection grew steadily to include works by such
noted American artists as N.C. Wyeth, George Innes,Thomas Hart Benton
and Winslow Homer. I wanted young people to see American art,
Bentley said. We now have examples from every period and every style
in the collection. It thrills me to death when I see a student looking
at a painting I donated. I have had some students tell me their careers
were influenced by these works.
According to Roberta Griffin, director of galleries, the Bentley-Sellars
gifts gave the university a very firm foundation in nineteenth to mid-twentieth
American art which is now being enhanced by more contemporary works. The
Dick and Judy Marks collection of large-scale paintings and sculptures
picks up from there, she said. We now have an impressive
retrospective of 200 years of American works.
The true value of the collection is not in its monetary value but in its
incalculable contribution to student learning. Art majors study the works
to learn techniques and to explore their own interpretations, while other
students benefit from having real art presented to them. Its
very different from seeing a slide or a picture in a book, Griffin,
who oversees the collection with the able assistance of Curator Suzanne
Talbott, said. You have to see the actual painting or sculpture
to really understand its power.
That is part of what makes Bernard Zuckermans
1999 donation of works by his late wife, Ruth Zuckerman, so valuable.
In addition to nearly 100 stone sculptures, his gift also included her
papers and other materials. When you have a great collection of
an artists lifes work, the ideal thing is to have not just
that archive, but also the letters and the slides, with the representative
works from each period of her work, Griffin said. Then, you
really have something worth studying.
After his wifes death, Zuckerman was approached by the University
of Georgia and the High Museum, but he ultimately decided to share her
collection of Kennesaw State. The others couldnt promise to
display all of the works, Zuckerman said, and I didnt
want any of the pieces to end up in a basement where no one could see
them. The Zuckerman collection is currently on display in a number
of buildings and offices throughout campus, but eventually most of the
works will be placed permanently in the Schools proposed Art Museum.
Zuckerman also based his decision on the universitys enthusiasm
for his wifes work. In fact, Griffin was in the middle of curating
an exhibition of Ruth Zuckermans latest work when the artist passed
away unexpectedly. Griffin decided to postpone the exhibition and re-mount
it as a retrospective of all of her work. Her work was too important
not to highlight it in a more profound way, Griffin said. On
opening night, despite a terrible storm, the gallery was packed with people.
Griffin believes many of the more recent donors to the Permanent Collection,
like Zuckerman, have been motivated by the universitys willingness
to exhibit their collections. We started a series of shows we now
call The Collectors Vision several years ago to spotlight the wonderful
art that area collectors have assembled. We work very closely with the
collectors throughout the process and we strive to treat their art with
the tremendous respect and admiration is deserves. That treatment
includes attractive and informative brochures and catalogs and special
events throughout the exhibition period. After being featured in The Collectors
Vision, Richard and Judy Marks decided to entrust many of their large-scale
sculptures and paintings to the university. Their collection is visible
on the grounds of the university, on the walls of the Visual Arts Building
(the only place with walls large enough, according to Griffin) and in
the rotunda of the Student Center where The Leaning Man commands
the attention of students and visitors alike.
Next season, two exhibitions will showcase the Permanent Collections
most recent addition, works by the late Italian-born Atlanta artist Athos
Menaboni. Known as a twentieth-century Audubon, Menaboni painted more
than 150 species of American birds and he created murals, seascapes, landscapes,
mosaics and fantasiesmany of which were featured on the covers of
magazines like Southern Living and Sports Illustrated. The Christmas cards
he created for Coca-Cola mogul Robert Woodruff will be on display in December
2004 and many of his other works will be exhibited in April 2005. Both
exhibitions represent the bulk of a private collection assembled by Russell
Clayton, a graduate of KSU and a local history teacher, who plans
to donate some of his Menaboni collection to the university. Like the
Zuckerman collection, Claytons donation also will include documents
and personal correspondence.
As the university befriends more art collectors and art lovers, the Permanent
Collection of Art is expected to continue growing. Griffin, who has worked
with the collection for more than 20 years, realizes its value perhaps
more than any other individual.
When I meet with classes, I am amazed how much art history we can
cover just by pointing out what we have in our collection.