As­tound­ing ac­qui­si­tions

UALR’s Windgate Cen­ter show­cases its col­lec­tion, two new art gal­leries

Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette - - STYLE - EL­LIS WIDNER

It still feels a lit­tle sur­real to Brad Cush­man. Stand­ing in the gallery that bears his name on the ground floor of the new Windgate Cen­ter of Art + De­sign at the Univer­sity of Arkansas at Lit­tle Rock, Cush­man gazes around the sleek new space, filled with selec­tions from the univer­sity’s per­ma­nent col­lec­tion of art.

“It’s a beau­ti­ful space, more in­ti­mate than our for­mer space,” he says of the 1,800-square-foot main gallery. “We also have a sec­ond gallery of 1,020 square feet down­stairs.”

Gallery direc­tor and cu­ra­tor since 2000, Cush­man is responsible for or­ga­niz­ing and in­ter­pret­ing orig­i­nal ex­hi­bi­tions, pro­gram­ming a gallery sched­ule that in­cludes tour­ing ex­hi­bi­tions and stu­dent and fac­ulty shows as well as pro­grams such as lec­tures and sym­po­siums, and he also heads a com­mit­tee that de­ter­mines new art pur­chases for the univer­sity’s col­lec­tion.

He is ea­ger to talk about the univer­sity’s art col­lec­tion and a newly pub­lished cat­a­log (High­lights From the Per­ma­nent Col­lec­tion) and thrilled with the art and de­sign depart­ment’s new build­ing. Cush­man hopes the new park­ing lot next to the build­ing will en­cour­age more peo­ple to attend the shows and pro­grams.

“We are push­ing close to 1,600 ob­jects in the per­ma­nent col­lec­tion,” Cush­man says. “The mis­sion of this col­lec­tion is to be a teach­ing tool and pro­vide good ex­am­ples of work be­ing made by artists. Every­thing we do in the class­room is mir­rored in the col­lec­tion.”

UALR’s col­lec­tion in­cludes draw­ings, paint­ings, fine art prints, photographs, graphic il­lus­tra­tions, po­lit­i­cal car­toons, sculp­tural ob­jects, ceram­ics and con­tem­po­rary crafts.

It is fit­ting that the new gallery’s first ex­hi­bi­tion is “Build­ing a Col­lec­tion: Re­cent Ac­qui­si­tions Made Pos­si­ble by the Windgate Char­i­ta­ble Foun­da­tion.” In the lower level gallery, “Dis­cov­er­ing Kate Free­man Clark” presents paint­ings by a gifted, lit­tle known Mis­sis­sippi-born painter. Cush­man was in­tro­duced to Clark’s work while show­ing his own at a gallery in Wa­ter Val­ley,

Miss. Both shows con­tinue through March 11.

“Build­ing a Col­lec­tion” in­cludes Delita Martin’s mixed media Stand­ing in the Night, one of the works that was in Crys­tal Bridges Mu­seum of Amer­i­can Art’s “State of the Art” ex­hi­bi­tion in 2014.

“A ma­jor­ity of the works on dis­play were pur­chased with Windgate Foun­da­tion grants,” Cush­man says.

Also dis­played are the col­lec­tion’s first egg tem­pera paint­ing, Mar­i­anela de la Hoz’s in­trigu­ing Your Re­flec­tion Into Mine; Ester Her­nan­dez’s so­cially and po­lit­i­cally charged screen print Sun Raid; Dustin Farnsworth’s po­plar wood, fab­ric and poly­chrome sculp­ture Heavy the Weight; Heidi Hog­den’s liq­uid and pow­dered graphite work Resur­gence; and Sylvie Rosen­thal’s bass­wood, po­plar wood and paint piece Bea­con.

Nota­bles rep­re­sented in the univer­sity’s col­lec­tion in­clude painter Robert Rauschen­berg, in­flu­en­tial pho­tog­ra­pher Ed­ward Ste­ichen, Ger­man ex­pres­sion­ist Kathe Koll­witz, writer and pho­tog­ra­pher Eudora Welty, wood sculp­tor Stoney La­mar, il­lus­tra­tor F.R. Gruger, Texas out­sider artist Ike Mor­gan and black­smith and Pen­land School of Craft in­struc­tor El­iz­a­beth Brim.

Arkansas artists in the per­ma­nent col­lec­tion in­clude re­tired UALR art pro­fes­sor Win Bruhn, War­ren Criswell, Do­minique Sim­mons, Ti­mothy Hurs­ley, Den­nis McCann, Adrian Brewer, Neal Har­ring­ton, Kather­ine Strause, Aj Smith, Mar­jorie Wil­liams-Smith, Robyn Horn, Al Allen and Emily Wood.

Po­lit­i­cal car­toons by John Deer­ing of the Arkansas Demo­crat-Gazette are also in the col­lec­tion.

FOUND­ING GEOM­E­TRY

While the art depart­ment’s roots can be traced back to the artists Louis and Elsie Bates Fre­und, the per­ma­nent col­lec­tion was not es­tab­lished un­til 1972 with the pur­chase of two geo­met­ric ab­strac­tions by respected re­gional painter David Le­Doux. Le­Doux was pro­fes­sor of paint­ing at Mid­dle Ten­nessee State Univer­sity from 1956 to 1994. A Don­aghey Foun­da­tion Grant funded the pur­chase.

“Louis Fre­und helped es­tab­lish art at this in­sti­tu­tion in 1940 when it was Lit­tle Rock Ju­nior Col­lege,” Cush­man says. “There was no art depart­ment; they of­fered art classes. He and Elsie had a pres­ence in Eureka Springs and Con­way; they de­vel­oped pro­grams across the state. The Fre­unds placed their work in in­sti­tu­tions around the state; among the gifts we re­ceived were his 1950s draw­ings in Mex­ico and a lovely oil por­trait of Elsie from 1950. We also have a wa­ter­color ab­stract of Elsie’s.”

The col­lec­tion, Cush­man says, “shaped it­self.” His in­tro­duc­tory es­say to the cat­a­log dis­cusses each decade and how ear­lier gallery di­rec­tors, chan­cel­lors and provosts, lo­cal art col­lec­tors and foun­da­tions con­trib­uted to its growth and di­rec­tion.

For ex­am­ple:

■ Robert Sher­man of Lit­tle Rock donated rock ’n’ roll hand­bills and posters he and the late Su­san Pfeifer col­lected in San Fran­cisco in the late 1960s. The col­lec­tion was part of a na­tional tour.

■ Robyn and John Horn of Lit­tle Rock donated a Stoney La­mar wood sculp­ture, Waltz­ing for Dream­ers.

■ Lisa and Dar­rell Walker donated nine pieces from their African Amer­i­can art col­lec­tion, in­clud­ing Her­bert Gen­try’s Sep­a­ra­tion II.

■ The Wilma and Jack Diner Art Ac­qui­si­tions and Awards En­dow­ment was es­tab­lished in the 1980s to buy stu­dent art. ■ The Windgate Char­i­ta­ble Foun­da­tion gave a $20.3 mil­lion grant in 2015 to con­struct the new art and de­sign build­ing, pro­vid­ing stu­dio and lec­ture class­rooms, two gal­leries, col­lec­tion stor­age, ex­hi­bi­tion prepa­ra­tion space and of­fices. The art depart­ment was pre­vi­ously housed in three build­ings.

■ Two il­lu­mi­nated man­u­script pages from two dif­fer­ent Books of Hours (de­vo­tional aids from the Mid­dle Ages) and a signed wood­cut, circa 1919-1920, by Kathe Koll­witz are his­toric works added in 1991 thanks to the sup­port of Chan­cel­lor James Young, who sought to ex­pand the teach­ing as­pect of the per­ma­nent col­lec­tion.

■ The Arkansas Nat­u­ral and Cul­tural Re­source Com­mis­sion awarded $500,000 to con­serve the Joe Jones mu­ral The Strug­gle in the South, which the artist painted at Com­mon­wealth Col­lege near Mena in 1935. “It is a sig­nif­i­cant part of our col­lec­tion,” Cush­man says. The mu­ral is ex­pected to be dis­played later this year at a space in­side Cen­tral Arkansas Li­brary Sys­tem’s new park­ing garage and of­fice build­ing on Pres­i­dent Clin­ton Av­enue just north of the main li­brary.

The UALR col­lec­tion is not just one per­son’s vi­sion, though Cush­man’s di­rects it. He works with a gallery com­mit­tee, which also in­cludes Nathan Lar­son, the as­sis­tant cu­ra­tor; Carey Roberson, chair of the depart­ment of art and de­sign; and two full-time fac­ulty mem­bers who change ev­ery year.

“This new space gives us a focus, a stand-alone fa­cil­ity that will strengthen what we do. I hope the Windgate Cen­ter be­comes a destination when peo­ple come to see the Arkansas Arts Cen­ter, Mo­saic Tem­plars Cul­tural Cen­ter, the Clin­ton Li­brary. We will plan events — speak­ers, sym­po­siums, unique ex­hi­bi­tions — to bring peo­ple to us. We some­times co­or­di­nate with other in­sti­tu­tions and what they are do­ing, but we also may do some things oth­ers aren’t, such as video in­stal­la­tions.”

HIGH­LIGHTS

The cat­a­log, High­lights From the Per­ma­nent Col­lec­tion, was three years in the mak­ing. On its cover is a mul­ti­me­dia work by for­mer UALR teacher Delita Martin, Stand­ing in the Night. The cat­a­log was un­der­writ­ten by the Windgate Char­i­ta­ble Foun­da­tion.

“Seven years ago, Windgate awarded us a grant to stage ex­hibits, con­serve some pieces of art, pur­chase work and dig­i­tize our col­lec­tion,” Cush­man says.

That grant made it pos­si­ble to pho­to­graph and dig­i­tize the en­tire col­lec­tion; about 220 works are in the new cat­a­log. Cush­man or­ga­nized it by dis­ci­pline — paint­ing, draw­ing, con­tem­po­rary craft, graphic de­sign and more. Along with Cush­man’s in­tro­duc­tion, UALR col­leagues present fo­cused writ­ings at the end of each sec­tion.

“I put pro­fes­sional and stu­dent art side by side,” he says. “I wanted the art to speak for it­self. Against the pros, the stu­dents hold their own.”

The cat­a­log is art-driven rather than text-driven. And that’s what Cush­man wanted.

“I tried to show va­ri­ety, in terms of tech­niques and artists rep­re­sented and some in­tu­itive­ness in or­ga­niz­ing the cat­a­log. I had to see how pieces re­sponded to each other on fac­ing pages, med­i­tate on it, look at it again and move things around if it didn’t work.”

The cat­a­log also is a point of re­flec­tion, Cush­man says.

“I’m still ex­ca­vat­ing the col­lec­tion. I think there will be more cat­a­logs to come.”

THE NAME

Also an artist, Cush­man won the Grand Award at the an­nual Delta Ex­hi­bi­tion at the Arkansas Arts Cen­ter in 2002 and was the sub­ject of a ret­ro­spec­tive in 2016 at the Univer­sity of Arkansas Pu­laski Tech’s Windgate Cen­ter. He is rep­re­sented by Boswell Mourot Fine Art.

Now, how did Cush­man’s name wind up on the gallery?

“Jackye and Cur­tis Finch were ap­proached by the univer­sity about their in­ter­est in do­nat­ing to the gallery,” Cush­man says. That do­na­tion in­cluded nam­ing rights.

“They are great pa­trons in our com­mu­nity. When they agreed, I thought ‘Great, we’ll have the Finch Gallery.’ I was out of town and got a call from Joe Lampo, a UALR devel­op­ment of­fi­cer. He told me that Cur­tis Finch had signed the con­tract and wanted to name the main gallery the Brad Cush­man Gallery. I thought Joe was kid­ding me. It’s an amaz­ing honor.

“Af­ter the shock wore off, I called Cur­tis and thanked him. It was very nice.” (Cush­man was cu­ra­tor for the Finches’ Face to Face ex­hi­bi­tion in 2014 at the Arkansas Arts Cen­ter and edited the cat­a­log with then-regis­trar Thom Hall.)

In High­lights From the Per­ma­nent Col­lec­tion, Cush­man in­cludes a quo­ta­tion from Le­Doux, the first artist whose works were added to the col­lec­tion. His com­ments seem par­tic­u­larly apt: “a paint­ing should be in­ven­tive, strik­ing, chal­leng­ing, etc., no mat­ter what the media … my work of­fers it­self to the imag­i­na­tion of oth­ers and where their imag­i­na­tive life is de­ter­mines what they see in it.”

Ref­er­enc­ing that quote, Cush­man says, the gallery’s col­lec­tion “holds work that is in­ven­tive, strik­ing, chal­leng­ing … That’s what I hope peo­ple take away when they visit here.”

Arkansas Demo­crat-Gazette/JOHN SYKES JR.

Brad Cush­man, gallery direc­tor and cu­ra­tor at the Univer­sity of Arkansas at Lit­tle Rock, stands near art­works in the new Brad Cush­man Gallery ex­hi­bi­tion “Build­ing a Col­lec­tion: Re­cent Ac­qui­si­tions Made Pos­si­ble by the Windgate Char­i­ta­ble Foun­da­tion.”

Univer­sity of Arkansas at Lit­tle Rock

Kate Free­man Clark’s oil on can­vas My First Sky, Shin­necock, hangs in the lower level gallery at the Univer­sity of Arkansas at Lit­tle Rock’s re­cently opened Windgate Art + De­sign Cen­ter.

Univer­sity of Arkansas at Lit­tle Rock

Dustin Farnsworth’s Heavy the Weight is a bass­wood, po­plar wood, fab­ric and poly­chrome sculp­ture on dis­play at the Brad Cush­man Gallery in the Windgate Art + De­sign Cen­ter at the Univer­sity of Arkansas at Lit­tle Rock.

Univer­sity of Arkansas at Lit­tle Rock

Dorothy Gille­spie’s alu­minum and acrylic paint sculp­ture Un­ti­tled is part of the Univer­sity of Arkansas at Lit­tle Rock’s Per­ma­nent Col­lec­tion.

Univer­sity of Arkansas at Lit­tle Rock

Sun Raid (Se­ries Pro­ject), a screen print by Es­ther Her­nan­dez, is part of the “Build­ing a Col­lec­tion” ex­hi­bi­tion at the Univer­sity of Arkansas’ Windgate Cen­ter of Art + De­sign.

Univer­sity of Arkansas at Lit­tle Rock

Heidi Hog­den’s Resur­gence, a liq­uid graphite and pow­dered graphite on pa­per work, hangs in the “Build­ing a Col­lec­tion” ex­hi­bi­tion at the Windgate Art + De­sign Cen­ter at the Univer­sity of Arkansas at Lit­tle Rock.

Univer­sity of Arkansas at Lit­tle Rock

Delita Martin’s multi-media work Stand­ing in the Night is on the cover of the cat­a­log High­lights from the Per­ma­nent Col­lec­tion.

Univer­sity of Arkansas at Lit­tle Rock

Elsie Bates Fre­und’s wa­ter­color ab­stract Ode to Spring was donated by the artist to the Univer­sity of Arkansas at Lit­tle Rock’s per­ma­nent col­lec­tion.

Arkansas Demo­crat-Gazette/JOHN SYKES JR.

Brad Cush­man holds open a copy of the new cat­a­log, High­lights From the Per­ma­nent Col­lec­tion. Cush­man, gallery direc­tor and cu­ra­tor at the Univer­sity of Arkansas at Lit­tle Rock, edited the pub­li­ca­tion.

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