News From Terre Haute, Indiana

Museums

March 8, 2012

Swope celebrates 70 years of the best of American art

TERRE HAUTE — Throughout 2012, Swope Art Museum is celebrating 70 years of bringing the finest examples of American art and related educational programs to residents of Terre Haute, the Wabash Valley and visitors nationwide. Open to the public since March 21, 1942, the museum has always offered free admission.

March 21 is the official anniversary of that first opening day. The boards, volunteers and staff of the museum invite the community for a special presentation at 11 a.m. Mayor Duke Bennett will be on hand to recognize this major milestone in Terre Haute’s history, and everyone is encouraged to stop by, enjoy some special commemorative cake and share in excitement of this historic occasion.

The Swope has a series of special exhibitions and projects planned for its anniversary year:

“Reflecting Terre Haute” (Feb. 3-March 10) presents both images of the city from the museum’s collection and new work by artists working in all media. The museum requested submissions from artists that interpret, depict or otherwise visualize the community of Terre Haute. Indiana State University professor of photography Fran Lattanzio, with the assistance of Austen Leake, photographed the sites of works of art from the historic section of the exhibition for special labels that allow viewers to compare images. Visitors can view the city through the eyes of the contemporary artists who responded to the call for submissions.

Fall 2012 brings an important exhibition organized by Swope curator Elizabeth (Lisa) Petrulis: “Dual Visions: John Rogers Cox Artist and Curator” (Oct. 5-Dec. 29). Cox was the Swope Art Museum’s first director and a well-known artist, whose work is in many collections, including the Cleveland Museum of Art, St. Louis Art Museum, and the Swope.

It was Cox’s discerning eye and recommendation that the museum focus on works by living American artists that resulted in the Swope’s core collection of paintings by such important artists as Edwards Hopper, Thomas Hart Benton and Grant Wood. Under Cox’s leadership, the Swope became one of the earliest museums in the country devoted to American art. The exhibition will present the works that Cox purchased for the museum and works of art by Cox from the Swope’s collection and from public and private lenders.

The Swope also will publish a guide to the collection by art historian Laurette McCarthy featuring 70 works of art. This lavishly illustrated publication is in full color and will be available in October.

As the only art museum in the region, the Swope serves an important need in providing visitors of all ages and backgrounds with the opportunity to learn about the rich history of American art, including that of Indiana and the Wabash Valley. Each year, thousands of visitors, including every fifth-grade class in the Vigo County School Corp., view the collection and special exhibitions and participate in the museum’s many programs. The museum had nearly 12,000 visitors in 2011.

The Swope recently was reaccredited for the fourth time by the American Association of Museums, a testament to the museum’s commitment to maintaining the professional standards for all aspects of its operations.

Admission to the Swope Art Museum is free as a stipulation of founder Sheldon Swope (1843-1929). His will turned over his entire estate to the United States Trust Company (now First Financial Bank) for the purpose of creating the Sheldon Swope Art Gallery. When the gallery opened in March 1942, a critic from a popular art magazine praised the new museum’s collection and its free admission policy, noting, “At the Swope Art Gallery, the man in overalls and the man in tails enter on an equal basis.”

Seventy years later, Swope’s vision of a museum that is accessible and relevant to everyone continues to be the museum’s guiding force.

“We look forward to 2012 as a time to honor Sheldon Swope and his great gift to Terre Haute and to working to further his conception of a museum that welcomes everyone,” said executive director Marianne Richter. “In addition to the special events planned for our anniversary year, we invite you to join us for Swope Family Days and First Fridays. All are free to the public.”

A calendar of these and other events and exhibitions is available at the Museum’s website, www.swope.org.

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