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by Becky Linhardt
During Art in Bloom, October 22–25, 2015, the public can view a unique group of paintings that reveal a community art legacy. The Cincinnati Public Schools Art Collection is an important tribute to art and Cincinnati history. At the turn of the last century, the Art League was created at Hughes high school in order to broaden students’ horizons. With a collection of pennies from students, gifts from forward-thinking citizens and artists or their families – the Cincinnati Public Schools Art Collection grew slowly and thoughtfully.
Now, held in trust by the Cincinnati Art Museum and the Cincinnati Museum Center, along with the schools, selections from this collection can be enjoyed by everyone. Works of art by prominent Cincinnati artists, many nationally known such as Joseph Henry Sharp, Elizabeth Nourse and Bessie Hoover Wessel are now prominently displayed at the Cincinnati Art Museum. During Art in Bloom, the selections on view at the Cincinnati Art Museum will be highlighted with two beautiful floral displays.
“The Cincinnati Public Schools provide fine examples of architecture, tile work, stained glass, sculpture and paintings,” said Dr. Julie Aronson, Curator of American Paintings, Sculpture, and Drawings. “The paintings cover a wide range of subjects, some showing exotic locations, to spark the creative imaginations of the students.”
“The formation of the public schools’ art collection grew out of the reform movements of the early 20th century, which sought to improve living conditions in the cities and the moral fabric of society by exposing children to beauty,” said Aronson. For many children, this collection offered their first exposure to art.”
The artwork made an impression on the young students. Curatorial Assistant Anne Buening, found these quotes in the comment book that resides in The Dr. Kenneth and Barbara Kreines Gallery where a portion of the collection is displayed.
“I went to Hyde Park School and Withrow. I remember the tile (Rookwood?) drinking fountains and artwork adorning the walls, but I am afraid, like most of the other students, I took it for granted….Thank you for placing them on exhibit for all to enjoy.”
“I attended Kirby Road Elementary (50’s) and I remember all the art in the halls. A number of times I was sent out to ‘stand in the corner’—instead I looked at the pictures. “
“I attended Hughes (class of ’63). The art was inspiring and was greatly appreciated by myself and fellow students. I will always be grateful for these surroundings and the uplifted feelings I still have for them today.”
One of the much admired works in the Cincinnati Public Schools Collection resides at the Cincinnati Art Museum – Bessie Hoover Wessel’s painting, Hollyhocks.
“Wessel used an impressionistic style to fill Hollyhocks with air and light, and because of its large size you almost feel immersed in the floral beauty of the garden,” said Aronson.
Joseph Henry Sharp (American, b.1859, d. 1953); Dahlias or Still Life with Zinnias, oil on canvas;Collection of the City School District of the City of Cincinnati; made available to the Cincinnati Museum Center and the Cincinnati Art Museum. L15.2008:65
Bessie Hoover Wessel (American, b. 188, d. 1973); Hollyhocks c. 1915; oil on canvas; Collection of the City School District of the City of Cincinnati; made available to the Cincinnati Museum Center and the Cincinnati Art Museum.L.1191.31.83