Not many Indiana high school students are able to fly to Rome, Florence, and Paris to study and experience those cities’ great masterpieces firsthand, but Culver Academies Fine Arts instructor Jack Williams is helping bring part of the tactile, three-dimensional experience of “being there” to campus.
Williams has brought to Culver what is believed to be the largest collection of plaster casts in the Hoosier state, and perhaps the second largest at a secondary school in the entire United States.
The Culver community and public at large will have a chance to experience the collection on Wednesday, Nov. 30, from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., at the Crisp Visual Arts Center. The grand opening of “Plastered: An Exhibition of Culver’s New Plaster Cast Collection” is free of charge and will include refreshments as well as a chance for attendees to try their hand sketching the casts in person. The exhibit will remain at the Crisp Center through the end of the holiday season in early 2017.
The latest additions to Culver’s collection are breathtakingly large-scale, full-sized casts of three incomparable works: the Venus de Milo, Augustus of Prima Porta, and the head of Michelangelo’s legendary David. The casts debuted in Culver classrooms earlier this fall.
Williams said plaster casts, at the height of their popularity, were highly sought-after among museums, universities, and collectors worldwide. Some are artists’ detailed reproductions – at a smaller scale – of sculptural masterworks (as represented in a number of earlier purchases for Culver). Some are the result of molds made from the original works (the new, full-size casts fall into that category).
Changing arts trends following World War II resulted in many plaster casts being discarded or destroyed, making them an unusual feature anywhere. But Culver retained its collection. After bringing his personal collection to Culver, Williams approached Culver Summer Schools & Camps Director Don Fox with a proposal to purchase several small-scale casts for instruction in the summer and. of course, boarding school classroom.
Utilizing the Impact Culver crowd-funding initiative, Williams was able to raise more than $14,000 to purchase the three large-scale casts. Williams notes Culver’s collection was chosen carefully for its integration with the school’s Humanities curriculum and mission.
“Plaster casts are one aspect of a vital, dynamic curricular approach,” he said. “To my mind, they’re a timeless part of a good education.”
In addition to the plaster casts exhibition, the Crisp Center’s Deer-Zink Gallery is also reopening Nov. 30, after several months’ renovation to the space. Included in the new gallery exhibition will be three sections: Portraits, Landscapes, and works from Culver’s General Collection.
“The Landscapes show addresses landscape as an art form,” says Culver Fine Arts instructor and Art Collection Curator Bob Nowalk. It includes the “Pilgrims at St. Roche” by the Hudson River School’s Worthington Whittredge, which is on loan from Michael Huffington. The work displayed is his largest painting and was painted in Rome in 1856.
The portrait show will center around an examination of “likeness” and “type,” adds Nowalk. The subjects center on material studied by Culver students in Art History the first term.