A promising talent cut short. A program that has blossomed.
A memorial exhibition at Hope College will commemorate both.
An exhibition of works by the late Stanley Harrington will open in the gallery of the De Pree Art Center on Saturday, May 14, and continue through Friday, June 10.
Harrington was a member of the Hope faculty from 1964 until his untimely death at age 32 on Oct. 18, 1968, of a brain aneurysm. The exhibition, curated by a former Hope colleague, Del Michel, professor emeritus of art, will feature some 50 works that Harrington painted, both oils and acrylics, from 1958 until the year of his death.
The exhibition will begin with an opening reception on Saturday, May 14, from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. Michel will make remarks during the opening, as will Harrington's daughter, Anne Harrington Hughes, an artist living in Hamtramck. The public is invited to both the exhibition and the reception. Admission is free.
"Stan's brushwork is rich and his color palette, earthy," said Michel, who had also joined the Hope art faculty in 1964, and remained at Hope until retiring in 2003. "I hope that the viewer will enjoy discovering the jewel-like nature of these works, as much as I have enjoyed rediscovering so many 'old friends.'" A number of the pieces will be available for purchase. The proceeds will support the Stanley Harrington Art Award, which is presented each year to a promising Hope art major for the purchase of research materials.
After graduating from Hope with an English major, Harrington completed a Master of Fine Arts degree in 1961 at the University of Iowa, where he studied painting, drawing and prints. He taught at Lake Forest High School in Illinois as head of the art department and instructor in drawing and painting from 1961 to 1963. He joined the Hope faculty in February of 1964.
Beyond his contributions as an instructor, he established the first gallery space at Hope, in the mezzanine of the Van Zoeren Library. The first exhibition there included works by Rembrandt, Duerer, Rouault and Picasso. After Harrington died, the college established a permanent art collection in his honor, a legacy which has continued to grow.
Active as an artist, in the nine years before his death he had paintings in exhibitions in Cedar Rapids, Iowa; Des Moines, Iowa; the Joslyn Museum in Omaha, Neb.; the Detroit Institute of Arts; and the Kalamazoo Institute of Arts; and in a National Small Painting Exhibition at the University of Omaha. In January of 1968, 35 of his works were featured in a one-man show at Valparaiso University.
In the November after he died, Hope displayed some of his works in a memorial exhibition. His work was also featured in a one-man show at Kalamazoo College in February of 1969 and a one-man show sponsored by the Holland Friends of Art in March of 1969. Otherwise, most of the pieces have not been shown publicly for more than 34 years.
The idea to display the works began Harrington's widow, Dr. Jane Bach, who has held the paintings in the decades since they were last exhibited.
"Part of it is selfish, because it would be nice to see them all displayed together at once," said Bach, who retired from the Hope faculty in 2000 as a professor emerita of English after teaching at the college since 1975. "But there are also still people who knew Stan - friends and classmates."
When Harrington died, the department of art did not yet have a home of its own. The department moved into the old Holland Rusk Bakery building in 1969, and into the De Pree Art Center in 1982.
In addition to the gallery, De Pree features studio space for students and faculty alike. It's a combination, Michel believes, that his former colleague would have appreciated, since it gives students a chance to see how their faculty mentors work as artists.
"We shared a sensibility about the work - and not only the work but the process of working," said Michel, who like Harrington did his graduate work at the University of Iowa. "I believe it, and I know Stan believed it: if you're going to teach students as an artist you must be an artist."
First as a student and in the years since as an artist, Hughes has appreciated the emphasis.
"I think the beauty in the design of the building is the kind of exchange it provides - student to student, student to faculty," said Hughes, who returned to Hope as a visiting artist in the fall of 2003. "That's kind of unique. Not many other places do that, where you see the artist in his studio." For Hughes, too young to remember her father, the art he left behind has a provided a way to understand who he was. For the works to be displayed and sold now brings together many threads - her family's ties to Hope, her father's work, the dream he had for Hope and the department of today, and the students who will benefit in the future.
"For me it was the idea of giving to the college in a different way," she said. "The idea of Hope College is generations and heritage, and this exhibition fits that vein."
The De Pree Art Center is located on Columbia Avenue at 12th Street. The gallery is handicapped accessible. Starting Monday, May 16, the gallery will be open weekdays from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.