WESTERN'S NEW FINE ARTS MUSEUM                                                                                                     

Image: Patricia Bailey, Robert Vartabedian and Martin DeWitt flank the Heliker painting
Inspecting “The Visit II,” an oil-on-canvas painting created by New York artist John Heliker, are (from left to right) Patricia Bailey, an associate professor of art at Western who chairs the Heliker-LaHotan Foundation that contributed the painting; Robert Vartabedian, dean of the College of Arts and Sciences; and Martin DeWitt, founding director of the art museum.

CULLOWHEE – The Heliker-LaHotan Foundation in New York has donated a major painting by an influential American artist to the permanent collection of the art museum in Western Carolina University's new Fine and Performing Arts Center.

The oil-on-canvas painting, titled “The Visit II” and created in 1989 by the late New York artist John Heliker, will be installed in the museum at Western during an inaugural exhibition “Worldviews: Selections from the Permanent Collection.” The fall 2005 exhibition will feature more than 50 new acquisitions and recent major gifts of art to the university collection.

Heliker, who died in 2000, had an active career in New York that spanned most of the 20 th century. Other works by Heliker are included in collections in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis, and the Whitney Museum of American Art, where he was the subject of the first retrospective exhibition in the Whitney's new building in 1969.

In addition, the board of directors of the Heliker-LaHotan Foundation also voted to donate to the museum works by the foundation's co-founder, Robert LaHotan, artist and teacher at the Dalton School in New York, who passed away in 2002. The gifts were facilitated by Patricia Bailey, associate professor of art at Western, who chairs the Heliker-LaHotan Foundation.

“Western has implemented a comprehensive plan to strengthen the collection as we plan a major re-installation featuring several new acquisitions to help celebrate the opening of our museum,” said Martin DeWitt, founding director of the art museum. “Our goal is to develop a vital program to include what we expect to be a significant collection of modern and contemporary art to rival the strongest teaching collections in the Southeast.”

The work by Heliker will help anchor the focus of the collection, and will greatly strengthen the museum's teaching mission, DeWitt said. “As we examine the beautiful work of Mr. Heliker, we can discuss his early roots as a modernist, and trace his extraordinary journey as artist and teacher, the influence of which continues to this day. As a leading member of the New York School, John Heliker will be featured along with other important American artists such as Louis Finkelstein and Rosemarie Beck, also recent gifts to the collection.”

Inaugural exhibitions will feature additional art from the permanent collection, including a major work by Kenneth Noland; new acquisitions by local, regional, and national artists; and recent major gifts. Luzene Hill, an up-and-coming contemporary artist from Atlanta, will be featured in a new sculptural installation, along with mixed media drawings that explore her Cherokee heritage and personal mythologies.

In addition, Joel Philip Myers, acclaimed contemporary studio glass artist, will be represented by two unique bodies of work – his “Black and White Installations,” reflecting on the pain and suffering of war, and “Dialogue Series,” which offers an optimistic and amusing view on human discourse and personal relationships.

A $30 million, 122,000-square-foot showcase for the arts, the Fine and Performing Arts Center at Western features more than 10,000 square feet of gallery and atrium exhibition space to showcase Western's growing permanent collection and rotating displays of contemporary art and student work. The art wing of the building includes classrooms and office space for Western's art department, and is home to a new master's degree program in fine art now being offered with noted visiting faculty artists from across the nation.

Designed by celebrated American architect Graham Gund, the center also includes a 1,000-seat auditorium capable of hosting Broadway-quality productions. Workers are putting finishing touches on the performance space, expected to be ready for occupancy by fall semester.

The center is designed as a tribute to the Cherokee nation, with signage in Cherokee and English, and a lobby featuring ceramic tiles in the form of a seven-point star representing the seven Cherokee tribal clans.

For information on the art museum in the Fine and Performing Art Center, contact Martin DeWitt at (828) 227-3591.

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Last modified: Monday, May 30, 2005
Copyright 2005 by Western Carolina University