Debut Grandeur

A look at the Bo Bartlett Center and its mission

Individuals in the art community eager to finally get a glimpse of the stunning Bo Bartlett Center need not wait any longer, as collaborators finalized the massive College of the Art’s project and opened its doors to the public during a ribbon-cutting ceremony this January. The ceremony may have indicated the end of the installation process, but there is still much work ahead in terms of accomplishing the goals and mission of the Center, which involve educational outreach.

The Center’s opening ceremony showcased the works of nearly 30 artists, many of whom have never been exhibited in the Southeast. The opening exhibition, Peers & Influences, was Bartlett’s recognition of the many artists with whom he had a close connection. The exhibit included works by Bartlett’s wife and co-curator, Betsy Eby, as well as Andrew and Jamie Wyeth.

In addition to Peers, the center will hold the Scarborough Collection, which is a collection of 14 staggering paintings by Bartlett, as well as an archival room called the Cheves Archival Gallery that houses a collection of objects relevant to the inspiration and production of Bartlett’s works.

“This magnificent facility will serve not only as the home for defining works and memorabilia of this highly acclaimed American artist, it will expand the experiential learning opportunities afforded by the center’s educational programming. It is truly an art education center,” said College of the Arts Dean Richard Baxter.

Housed in the Corn Center at RiverPark campus, the 18,425 square-foot interactive gallery –complete with skylight and movable 31’ x 17’ walls– was developed in a partnership between Columbus State University and nationally acclaimed artist Bo Bartlett. Designed by Seattle-based architect Tom Kindig, an award-winning member of the American Institute of Architects, the Center spent five years in construction and cost roughly $6.5 million, but it has been 15 years since the Center’s inception.

Bo Bartlett , a Distinguished Visiting Professor of Art at Columbus State University, is a locally-rooted American realist painter who expresses a modernist vision in his work and has received renown through repeated commendation and recognition globally by the professional art community. He has exhibited art in world-class museums and is the recipient of many awards, most recently the 1858 Prize for Southern Contemporary Art by the Gibbes Museum of Art.

“This new facility on the second floor of the Corn Center for the Visual Arts on the RiverPark campus is a spectacular addition to Uptown Columbus and to Columbus State University,” CSU president Chris Markwood said. “I think the Bo Bartlett Center will add significantly to this region’s growing national reputation as an incubator of young talent, and a showcase of accomplished artists.”

According to the University, Bartlett will conduct various annual workshops held at the center. A rotating exhibitions gallery will feature the work of visiting American artists, who are acclaimed both nationally and internationally and will also teach master classes. Additionally, the center will offer educational outreach for the surrounding region with a focus on providing art training and the development of creativity for underserved communities.

“I am honored to partner with Columbus State University,” Bartlett said. “I am particularly thrilled about our plans to reach out to young people, who perhaps haven’t had the opportunity to unlock their creativity and realize their potential. There was nothing like this when I was growing up in Columbus. But now that I am back in my hometown, I can’t think of a better way to give back.”

The Center’s website states its mission is to “explore creativity and learning within the context of the work and studio practice of the painter and Columbus, Georgia native Bo Bartlett,” and as a multidisciplinary institution, will have a wide range of programs to include exhibitions, concerts, lectures, and film.

The Center also intends to develop a network of affiliated art schools, museums, and universities across the country for partnerships and future collaborations. “I look forward to the opening of this unique cultural institution in the College of the Arts at CSU,” said David Houston, Executive Director of the Bartlett Center. “We will work to add to the many unwritten chapters of the history of American art while continuing to develop our deep commitment to innovative community service.”

“His paintings will mean something to some people and something else to others,” Houston said. “A good realist painter is like a good musician. They’re storytellers. But given the complex times we live in, the story is never simple.”

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