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The Longwood Center for the Visual Arts -
A Legacy of Visionary Education

Longwood Center for the Visual ArtsAnyone who knows Longwood College knows that it 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 College 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 College's vision. Although the LVCA has had a permanent home only since 1998, its origins go back more than a century. Today it is known throughout the College, 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 College, continue to expand. Already this year more than 6,500 children and adults have enjoyed exhibitions, tours, classes, workshops, and lectures offered by the Center. Also more than 600 volunteers and interns worked 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.

Thomas SullyLongwood College has been accumulating its museum collections since the late 1800s. The earliest acquisitions were portraits depicting honored Longwood administrators and faculty. A College-appointed committee established the Contemporary Virginia Artists Collection in 1951. Since then, works by the finest Virginia artists have been collected by the College 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, a 19th Century American Collection was established with the gift of nine works by Thomas Sully by Jeanne Sully West, a descendent of Thomas Sully. Thomas Sully is one of the U.S.'s most important 19th century American portrait painters. Since its start 30 years ago, the 19th Century Collection has grown to 428 works.

Because of their understanding of the key relationship of the arts to a balanced education, The Longwood College 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, College 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 College and community.

In the 1990s the Center's collections grew to include a Campus Loan Collection and a Study Collection. The Campus Loan Collection was designated to fulfill needs for an aesthetic presence in College offices, classrooms and public spaces.

Chinese Art Collection sculptureThe Study Collection was established as a means of educating students about particular areas of art through small but significant collections. Study collections are placed on permanent exhibition in locations across campus. Today, two significant study collections exist ­ a Chinese Art Collection and an African Art Collection. The Rowe Collection of Chinese Art, consisting of beautiful and ancient ceramics, bronzes and scrolls, is on display in the Lancaster Building. These works were given to the College by alumnus Bernice Beazley Rowe ('70) and her husband Dr. Henry Rowe in 1996. 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. In the near future, this African Collection is planned to be on permanent display in the lobby of Jarman Auditorium.

In 1993 a lease was taken on a 25,000 square foot facility (formerly a Roses department store) at the corner of Third 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 College 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 College, school children and adults in Southside Virginia.

Old photo taken at the LCVAIn 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. A year-round Community Art School, serving pre-schoolers through adults, offers sequential classes and one-day workshops led by local artists and visiting instructors. Free family open houses and special workshops are also provided by the Center. 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 also sponsors monthly "Art for Lunch" lectures and periodic trips to regional galleries and museums.

The Center is a partner with public schools. It serves as the host for the Annual Youth Art Month exhibit, which showcases approximately 350 works from 24 schools in 8 counties. In association with Prince Edward Schools, the Center sponsors two programs ­ ART Kids and the Art Print program. ART Kids (Apply, Resolve and Thrive) is a program for at-risk children who have been identified by school counselors as failing to thrive. The Art Print Program brings art appreciation classes into the elementary and middle schools. For teachers, the Center offers Teacher Institutes as well as professional development workshops in support of re-certification requirements.

Longwood College 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 College 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 College is reaffirming its commitment to a visionary approach with continued preparations for the future of the Center. Strategic planning is underway to renovate the Center's permanent home on Third and Main and to provide financial security through an 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 College 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 College, is destined to be a positive influence to the end of this century and beyond.

K. Johnson Bowles
Director of the LCVA

All photographs illustrating this article are digital and are courtesy of K. Johnson Bowles.

 

  
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