Longwood University is an institution constantly looking to the future, envisioning a society peopled by community-minded leaders well educated in the meaning and worth of good citizenship and personal responsibility. The University has long understood that education is more than a means to earn a living. It is a means by which to live a life-- a life of learning, beauty, and hope. The arts are key to the quality of life for every individual in every layer of society. The Longwood Center for the Visual Arts (LCVA or the Center) is a prime example of Longwood University's vision. Although the LVCA has only had a permanent home since 1998, its origins go back more than a century. Today it is known throughout the University, Southside Virginia and the State as an important and innovative study and research center for visual arts. Its prestige and influence, just as with the University, continues to expand. Each year more than 38,000 children and adults enjoy exhibitions, tours, classes, workshops, and lectures offered by the Center. Also more than 600 volunteers and interns work with LCVA staff to create exhibitions, provide children's programs and family workshops, continue research on the permanent collections, and help promote the Center to its varied constituents. The Center owes its success to generations of thoughtful faculty, alumni and community members who make its work today, and from now on, possible.
Longwood University has been accumulating its museum collections since the late 1800s. The earliest acquisitions were portraits depicting honored Longwood administrators and faculty. A University appointed committee established the Contemporary Virginia Artists Collection in 1951. Since then, works by the finest Virginia artists have been collected by the University on a regular basis. The Center is the only collecting institution in the Commonwealth of Virginia with work by Virginia artists and artisans as its primary focus. In 1971, an American Collection was established with the gift of nine works by Thomas Sully by Jeanne Sully West, a descendent of Thomas Sully. The American Collection has grown to 428 works.
Because of their understanding of the key relationship of the arts to a balanced education, The Longwood University Board of Visitors chartered the Longwood Center for the Visual Arts in 1978. A major effort began immediately to insure establishment. Funds were raised by a group of dedicated faculty, alumni and community members with plans to build a facility on campus. Barbara L. Bishop, former Art Department Chair, was appointed part-time director for the Center. She remained as the part-time director until her untimely death from cancer in 1992. In 1993, with a renewed commitment to the establishment of a permanent site for the Center for the Visual Arts, University President Dr. William S. Dorrill and the Board of Visitors made a decision: instead of constructing a new building, the Center would be located in downtown Farmville. There the Center would physically and symbolically represent a bridge between the University and community.
In the 1990s the Center's collections grew to include a Campus Loan Collection and Chinese and African art collections. The Campus Loan Collection was designated to fulfill needs for an aesthetic presence in University offices, classrooms and public spaces. The Rowe Collection of Chinese Art, consisting of beautiful and ancient ceramics, bronzes and scrolls, is on display in the Lancaster Building. This collection was established in 1994 by alumnus Bernice Beazley Rowe ('70) and her husband, Dr. Henry Rowe. Friends of the Longwood Center for the Visual Arts established the Zigler and Brumfield Collections of African Art. In 1997 Robert Zigler, a longtime resident of Africa, set up a collection of African Art with 26 pieces. In 1999, Thomas and Donna Brumfield provided 88 works of African art. Currently, a portion of the African art collection is on permanent exhibition at the LCVA.
In 1993 a lease was taken on a 25,000 square foot facility (formerly a Roses department store) at the corner of 3rd and Main Streets in downtown Farmville. The building became the Longwood Center for the Visual Arts. Here the Center has made great progress--developing a master plan, completing initial cataloguing of the collection, establishing collection procedures policies and garnering support from the community. In 1998 Longwood University entered into an agreement to purchase the building and make it the permanent home for the Center for the Visual Arts. LCVA has become an anchor in the community and has dedicated itself to serving the University, school children and adults in Southside Virginia. The purchase of the building was finalized in 2005 followed by a major renovation.
In addition to staging beautiful, enriching exhibitions of art selected from Virginia, the United States and the world, LCVA is also known for its innovative educational approach. Participatory education is the foremost objective of the Center's programs. In conjunction with exhibitions, the Center provides self-guided and docent led tours, a hands-on activity room, classes, workshops, events, lectures as well as off-site programming. With each series of temporary exhibitions, the Center constructs a hands-on environment where children learn more about topics and methods observed in the exhibitions.
The Center is a partner with public schools. It serves as the host for the Annual Area Youth Art Month Exhibition, which showcases more than 400 works from students in 9 counties. In association with Prince Edward Schools, the Center sponsors two programs -- ART Kids and Have Art, Will Travel. ART Kids is a program for at-risk children who have been identified by school counselors as failing to thrive. For teachers, the Center offers professional development workshops in support of recertification requirements. Have Art, Will Travel is a popular exploration of Chinese art and culture for second graders. Participation in the programs is free.
Longwood University students in many disciplines are provided museum learning experiences. Students broaden their horizons and expand their understanding of the inter-relationship of different courses of study. Every month, classes participate in tours of exhibitions of national significance and lectures by visiting scholars. The Center also provides experience in museum careers through work-study positions, volunteerism and internships. Interns from marketing and business, sociology, anthropology, history, art history and studio art help the Center achieve its annual goals. Education majors serve as volunteers for the ART Kids program and special workshops. Through these experiences not only do Longwood University students learn about art, history and culture, they learn that their community participation is important, no matter what their planned career.
As Longwood graduates spread through the world, the 21st Century offers much promise for the role the Longwood Center for the Visual Arts will play in the education and enhancement of everyday life. Today the University is reaffirming its commitment to a visionary approach with continued preparations for the future of the Center. The LCVA strategic plan guides the Center into an even more successful future. The plan calls for another renovation, additional staffing, and an increased endowment. This crucial endowment will insure appropriate care and preservation of the art works in the Center's collections, and for the fostering and fulfillment of LCVA's educational role at the University and communities-at-large. To garner such support for daily operating fund needs, membership and business campaigns are held annually and other community support, through donations of time and resources, is sought and welcomed. With a solid foundation of good planning, patience, hard work and professionalism, the Longwood Center for the Visual Arts, like Longwood University, is destined to be a positive influence to the end of this century and beyond.