Art Brings Optimism to Life
The oil painting measured an impressive six-by-seven feet. Though it carried no clue of locale, its depiction of a bus rounding a wide, curved street reminded me of the New York cityscapes often featured on TV shows like Becker and Castle.
And it was just one among many pieces of impressive art on display at the recent open house for Marshall University’s new Visual Arts Center.
Another favorite: a picturesque, multi-paneled scene of the countryside, complete with roaming cows. I guessed it stood about seven feet high and 15 feet wide, creating a panoramic view that left me short of words to describe my feelings.
An Art School Fan
With Marshall University’s football team reeling off four impressive victories before a bye Sept. 27, Herd hysteria is at a fever pitch. “Running the table” to match the undefeated teams of 1996 and ’99 teams seems within reach.
However, after seeing the new center, I’m also a huge fan of the MU art school. It is an impressive redesign of what had been a department store left idle by changing shopping habits and urban decay. Plus, the school’s students and alumni exhibit a stunning display of talent.
I don’t say that as an art critic, but one who appreciates the gift that has never been my province. When I say I would have trouble drawing a decent stick figure, I’m not kidding.
It wasn’t just the mammoth-sized paintings that took my breath away. There were creative, mixed media creations and paintings that proved so intriguing my only criticism is I think every painting ought to have a title, to at least hint at the artist’s thought processes.
I never knew a canvas covered in nothing but black could be so interesting, until I saw one with ridges and different shadings blending into a multi-layered portrait.
Alas, this was a unique experience. The three-hour open house on a Friday night was the public’s only chance to see the second through sixth floors (retail space will be leased on the first).
One sculpture that will remain on display across the street at the Pullman Square shopping development that has keyed downtown’s revival is of Marco, the famed MU mascot.
We could see curiosity seekers gathered around, but didn’t make it back to inspect the colorful bull up close. The Ohio River Festival of Books had its featured speaker that night, and we didn’t want to miss him.
Saying “We Can”
To understand my slightly giddy feeling about the new arts center, you would have to return to 1976, the year I moved to this city.
Other than the new Civic Center, most land now occupied by a Holiday Inn and Pullman Square stood vacant. Local shoppers grumbled about the lack of a mall, which opened five years later in suburbia. It also left city coffers reeling from the attendant loss of tax revenue.
Thanks to the foresight of previous mayors and other officials, the “Superblock” once envisioned for this real estate finally became a reality a decade ago.
But by then, the nearby huge department store which bore the name of two different chains across had closed. It took some people with creative talents to raise the funds for a massive renovation that brought the new arts center to life.
That night as I stood on the top floor and surveyed the bustling street scene, I thought of how much effort it took to breathe new life into this city. And had a new appreciation for what happens when people say, “We can.”