50 YEARS: Piedmont Arts celebrates half-century mark

October 2, 2011

By HOLLY KOZELSKY - Bulletin Accent Editor

With a 15,000 square foot building and exhibitions that have included Van Gogh, ancient Roman artifacts and gemstones, Piedmont Arts has come a long way from its beginnings 50 years ago, meeting in churches and banks.

At the arts center’s 50th anniversary, we look back at the milestones that brought it to where it is today.

1961: Beginnings

A group of local art enthusiasts formed The Piedmont Chapter of the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts (VMFA). The first meeting was held on Sept. 1, 1961, in the home of Mr. and Mrs. S.M. Giddings. The officers were S.M. Giddings, president; H.C. Gravely II, vice president; Mrs. John D. Epperly, secretary; and Thomas Leath, treasurer. The group conducted its meetings and held events in local churches and banks.

VMFA exhibits came to Martinsville through a traveling Art Mobile. Through the years, it brought such collections as “Art Before Columbus” (1961); “Twelve Portraits: Delacroix to Gauguin” (1962); “Japanese Art” (1968); “50 Prints by James McNeill Whistler” (1969); and “Major Movements in American Art” (1970).

1976: Lynwood House

The Piedmont Chapter was getting big enough to need its own space, and DuPont provided it. DuPont leased its Lynwood House, where visiting managers used to stay, to the organization for $1 a year. The house is located between the DuPont Credit Union and the DuPont company property. PAA members conduction their first capital fundraising project to finance the move.

1978: PAA

The Piedmont Chapter adopted the name Piedmont Arts Association and became incorporated. It then became one of the first affiliates (statewide partners) of the VMFA.

1981: Schottland House

Heirs of the late Robert Michael Schottland and Lucy Purnell Schottland donated the former family home at 215-217 Starling Ave. to PAA. The heirs were the Schottland’s four daughters, Margaret Hearn, Mrs. W.C. Beeler, Mrs. W.W. Ascough and Eleanor McPhilamy, who all lived in Martinsville.

To make the move, PAA created its second capital fundraising project with a goal of $100,000 to pay for needed renovations to the house. PAA president Betsy Haskins, Toy Cobbe and Donald B. Humphrey headed that project, which raised more than $126,000 from 238 individuals and corporations. The excess went to an endowment fund.

In December 1982 and January 1983, PAA’s new location featured an exhibit with Coca-Cola’s Santa Claus art.

Other exhibits included “A Retrospective of the Paintings by the late Buck Carter” in 1983; “L’Art Nouveau” on loan from VMFA in 1984; and “Furniture and Decorative Arts of the Henry County Area Prior to 1870” in 1987.

1991: Performing Arts

The On Stage! Performing Arts Series was added to PAA’s offerings in 1991. The first season featured Jackie “The Story Lady” Torrence, Richmond Ballet and Piedmont Choral Society.

1995-1998: Growing again

In October 1995, Martinsville’s planning department approved use of land to allow for the reconfiguration of the PAA area and the addition of a new wing. It would give room for additional classroom space, state-of-the-art galleries and a larger multi-purpose room for luncheons, lectures and recitals.

In December 1995, a $3.5 million expansion campaign kicked off with one-third of the funds already raised. Co-chairmen Kay Smith and Glenn Hunsucker ran the “Shared Vision” campaign. Groundbreaking was held in 1997. New galleries were finished in 1998. They allowed high security exhibits, which was important for accreditation. The first exhibit after the expansion was “Get Real” in 1998.

2000 Appreciation for support

In 2000 PAA Director Toy Cobbe gave Clyde Hooker, the chair of the Hooker Furniture board, an award recognizing his support of the arts. The tradition continues yearly with awards in his name given to supportive businesses and individuals.

2004: Accreditation

PAA was accredited by the American Association of Museums. Accreditation allowed such significant exhibits as the lavish “Look Here: Dazzle” in 2006 and “Van Gogh, Lichenstien, Whistler: Masterpieces of World Art from the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts,” which closed Saturday.

The year 2006 saw the installation of the entry sign created by John Matthews and the “Kabuki Dancer” statue by Berry Tinsley on the front lawn.

2011: Celebrating 50 years

A new logo was created by Director of Marketing Bernadette Moore. It features three rings representing Piedmont Arts’ three focus areas: Visual, Performing and Education.

The 50th anniversary gala Friday night, which was attended by 250 people, featured live music, hors d’oeuvres and an open bar.

Its director is Kathy Rogers. The current board members are Joyce Staples, president; David Stone, first vice president; J. David Martin, second vice president; Paul Huckfeldt, treasurer; Judy Matthews, secretary and James Beckner, past president. The directors are Paula Burnette, Martha Cooper, Sandra Cox, India Dillard, Narda Dixon, Annie Hairston, Ronald Hairston, Anne Jacobsen, Billy Kirby, Judy Mattox, Joan Montgomery, Shar Pietz, Linda Reynolds, Cindi Showalter and Anne Vipperman.

— information compiled from Bulletin archives, interviews with Rogers and Moore and the VMFA website.


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