Friday, 27 December 2013 10:12

A Legacy Discovered and Defined

Written by  Kerri VanderHoff
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Yellow: The Works of Harry Brorby Yellow: The Works of Harry Brorby COURTESY PHOTO

Yellow: The Works of Harry Brorby
Saugatuck Center for the Arts
Through Jan. 31
Free
sc4a.org, (269) 857-2399

A peculiar opportunity can sometimes find a perfect fit at smaller arts organizations in West Michigan. Just such an opportunity arose recently at Saugatuck Center for the Arts (SCA), according to Executive Director Kristin Jass Armstrong.

"The size of our organization and scope of our mission allows for more flexibility with certain projects than perhaps some of the larger institutions have," she said. "And I think the circumstances around the exhibition Yellow: The Works of Harry Brorby is a good example. We are able to fill a niche in the community in a very important way."

The curator for the project, Ellen Meeuwsen, further explains Armstrong's thoughts on the exhibition and the space.

"We were given access to Brorby's Yellow Series ... in a unique and bizarre chain of events," she said.

When Broby passed away two years ago, his two children, who live out of state, left his Holland materials with the brother of Pati Bekken, a local realtor and arts supporter.

"When he was unable to take care of the amount of materials, Pati offered to help and connected with the SCA."

The SCA enlisted area art students to volunteer in transferring the paintings and personal ephemera to transitional storage, and determined that organizing an exhibition from the items would be a valuable means of educating the public about the local artist. His works are included in the permanent collections of the Art Institute of Chicago, the Museum of Modern Art, Walker Art Center and several other reputable institutions. Broby's work was also part of an internationally circulating exhibition Modern Art in the United States, organized by the Museum of Modern Art.

"I'm interested in Brorby because he was so deeply involved in the area and is clearly well respected, yet somehow has faded out of public consciousness over the last couple decades," Meeusen said, noting he trained at Oxbow in Saugatuck before attending Harvard. "This exhibition is the perfect opportunity to honor his accomplishments as an artist and learn about the truly exciting process a small non-profit organization can play in resurrecting the work of an important local artist who had nearly been forgotten. ... I couldn't pass up the opportunity and have spent the last few weeks diving through boxes and boxes of Brorby's personal ephemera—everything from private letters to doctor's notes to collected exhibition records—attempting to uncover the Brorby's story."

The exhibition highlights Brorby's work, the unusual bequest, and the role a local art center can play in keeping an artist's legacy alive. The paintings will be for sale with some of the proceeds given to the SCA.

"The SCA is dedicated to honoring the relationship an art center plays in building and strengthening local community, and this exhibition is a perfect opportunity for the community to learn about the legacy of one of the great artists in its midst," Meeuwsen said.

Other Art Events

Jason Quigno: Harmony in Stone
Muskegon Museum of Art
Through Jan. 19
muskegonartmuseum.org, (231) 720-2570

Jason Quigno works in a wide variety of stone, transforming rough stone blocks into fluid, graceful forms. His work emphasizes the creation of harmonious, balanced objects that convey a sense of movement, belying their nature as stone. Harmony in Stone features new work in a variety of scales and shapes, revealing the artist's continuing exploration and development. The exhibition is part of the Made in Michigan Artists series.

Bobcats to Bobwhites: Nature & Wildlife in Art
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Through Jan. 25
ferris.edu, (231) 591-2536

Visiting this university exhibition allows for the added bonus of exploring the charming city of Big Rapids, as works are found both on campus, as well as downtown. Spaces include the Card Wildlife Education Center and display cases, the library (FLITE), Williams' Auditorium Lobby, and Artworks Upper Gallery, 106 N. Michigan Avenue. The exhibition includes paintings by Randy Hendricks, taxidermy by Jan VanHoesen and Audubon prints from the Ferris permanent collection.

The Muslim Graves of Southeast Michigan
Grand Valley State University Red Wall Gallery
Through March 14
gvsu.edu, (616) 331-2563

Muslims have been in Southeast Michigan for well over a century. In their burial styles, they are not a uniform community, but are a mosaic of diverse ethnic and religious sub-communities drawn from around the world. Some stones emphasize faith in God. Others emphasize national or ethnic heritage, hobbies, clubs, affiliations, happy marriages or proud military service. The 39 photographs in the exhibit demonstrate the immense diversity of this complex population.

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