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Clay exhibit showcases 25 years of collecting

By Sara Busse

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- "Preserving a Legacy: 25 Years of Collecting" opens Sept. 14 at the Clay Center for the Arts and Sciences. Since 1986, the organization's Collectors Club has purchased 51 paintings, sculptures, drawings and prints for the Clay Center's permanent collection. This exhibit offers a rare opportunity for visitors to see these acquisitions collectively.

In the past 25 years, a wide variety of work from primarily 20th- and 21st-century American artists has been acquired. The collection contains works by Chuck Close, Helen Frankenthaler, Viola Frey, Edward Hopper, Joseph Hirsch, Roy Lichtenstein, Pablo Picasso and many others.

In 1986, Sharon Wehrle gathered a group of dedicated art enthusiasts to purchase new works for Sunrise Museum, forming what is now the Clay Center's Collectors Club. In celebration of the quarter-century milestone and to honor its founding members, the Collectors Club recently embarked on a fundraising initiative with a goal to raise $25,000 to establish a permanent Art Conservation Fund.

In just four weeks, the club achieved its goal, establishing a permanent fund to provide for the maintenance and preservation of works of art in the Clay Center's permanent collection.

A catalog, underwritten by the Peyton Law Firm in memory of two of the founding members, Betty Risk and Helen Thalheimer, showcases the many pieces the group has acquired over the years and enhances the exhibit with words and remembrances from members reflecting on 25 rewarding years of collecting.

"Collectors Club is a 'fan club' for the arts. In pursuit of art, we 'meet and greet' each other in beautiful surroundings of the Clay Center for our home gatherings and travel away to exotic destinations for the away venues. The club's fans do not ever agree which art is the best. Some members' 'best' art will surely be other members' 'worst.' The levels of artistic intellect differ tremendously, sparking wonderful discussions!" artist and club member Susan Petryszak explains in the catalog.

"The members themselves, along with their focused energy to support the visual arts, are the enriching elements of my Collectors Club membership," Petryszak continues. "The requirement for membership is not how much one knows about art but how much one cares about art. This 'fan club' is as precious and rarified as the works of art the members work to support."

For more information or to join the Collectors Club, visit www.theclaycenter.org or contact Arif Khan, Mary Price Ratrie curator of art, at akhan@theclaycenter.org or 304-561-3524.

The following people were founding members of the Collectors Club: Mr. and Mrs. Edward C. Armbrecht Jr., Marion and the late Frank Baer, Harry N. and the late Elizabeth Casto, Mrs. W.E. Chilton III, Nelle Ratrie Chilton, the late Louis W. and Bertie R. Cohen, Mrs. Hornor Davis II, Mr. and Mrs. Hornor Davis III, Mr. William Maxwell Davis, Mr. and Mrs. Robert Garner, Mrs. David M. Giltinan Jr. and the late David M. Giltinan Jr., Mr. and Mrs. Raymond Hage, Mr. and Mrs. Tom L. Horn Jr., Charles T. and Mary Ellen Jones, Ken and Joy Kleeman, the late Mr. and Mrs. Charles Loeb Sr., the late Mrs. Leora Osgood May, Thomas and Callen McJunkin, Mr. Frederick H. Morgan, Mrs. Warren Point III and the late Dr. Point, the late Mrs. Mary Price Ratrie, the late Mrs. Betty T. Risk, Mr. and Mrs. James B. Straw, Mr. and Mrs. Harvey M. Shreve Jr., the late Helen F. Thalheimer, James R. Thomas II and the late Mrs. Thomas, Mr. and Mrs. Henry B. Wehrle Jr.

Reach Sara Busse at sara.busse@wvgazette.com or 304-348-1249.


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