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Art students at Spartanburg Community College won’t have to go far to experience art thanks to the recently unveiled gallery on the college’s main campus.
The new gallery, located in the campus library, is the college’s first dedicated gallery space.
“It really started with the blank wall,” said Ashley Holt, library specialist on the main campus. While the idea of putting a gallery in the library had been floated for several years, Holt brought it to fruition.
“As soon as I began working in this library and saw that we had this wonderful blank wall, I always visualized (a gallery) myself, I could always see the artwork there on the wall,” he said.
Holt chose Greer-based watercolor painter John Roberts, who gave the gallery’s first artist’s talk on Thursday, for their premiere exhibition. Roberts’ work, which depicts highly-detailed and highly-realistic scenes of rural life, including landscapes dotted with farmhouses and still lifes of bluegrass instruments, will be on view through the end of the month.
“John Roberts’ work has the kind of sophistication and attention to detail that I knew that our students would find really intriguing,” Holt said. “Particularly because they are young artists themselves, and they are struggling with a lot of the fundamentals that young artists have to struggle with, and I felt that this was the sort of work that could really speak directly to those kinds of issues.”
Roberts said the works in exhibition were from a personal challenge he’d set himself in 2017 and again in 2018 of creating one watercolor painting a week. The paintings are based on photographs taken while traveling, many of sights in Pennsylvania and Tennessee, where Roberts was born.
“I’ve always loved representationalism. I’ve always loved to paint something and make it look as real as I possibly could,” Roberts said of his use of trompe l’oeil in an oil painting of a banjo and violin hanging on an old door that he said took 90 hours to complete, the first of his 2019 challenge to complete one oil painting per month.
“In doing these oils, I have discovered one thing for sure — my love is with watercolors,” Roberts said.
During his talk and the subsequent question-and-answer session, Roberts emphasized the need for the art students in attendance to seek out and view as much art as they can. As a former art teacher, recently retired from Bob Jones University, Roberts said an on-campus gallery space can be invaluable to students and teachers.
“Visit galleries, pick brains of people, look at the different styles,” Roberts advised.
The art gallery is just one of many efforts to expand the college’s art offerings, according to Kem Harvey, dean of arts and sciences. Harvey said many people in the community don’t realize that the college offers a large variety of art classes, including painting, drawing, design, and a recently-added ceramics course.
“Any time we can have exposure to the arts for our students, that’s big,” Harvey said. “We are really trying to expand, and this is just a piece of that overarching theme of bringing more arts to the campus because we have students that, that’s what they love.”
Henry Giles, the college’s president, was also pleased with the new addition to the college.
“I’m glad we have this area to show different artists that are in and around Spartanburg,” Giles said. “I’ve enjoyed listening to John today. He’s only the first of many to come.”
In October, Deborah Feiste will bring a selection of collages to the as-yet unnamed gallery. Information on gallery events is available on the library page of the Spartanburg Community College website.