This year not only marks the 50th Anniversary of the Kenan Center in Lockport, but the 51st anniversary of a landmark in the history of the Kenan House Gallery. It was on April 30, 1966, that the fledgling gallery opened with an exhibit of works by American watercolorist, Charles E. Burchfield from the collection of Charles Rand Penney. It would prove to be one of the last exhibitions Burchfield attended in person prior to his passing in January, 1967.
The exhibit titled, THREE GENERATIONS OF BURCHIFLEDS: WORKS FROM THE SCHOENE COLLECTION, opened April 30.
The exhibit brings together for the first time the works of Charles Burchfield, both of his daughters Catherine Burchfield Parker and Martha Burchfield Richter, and his grand-daughter, Peggy Richter Haug. The exhibit is guest curated by Gerald Mead.
Susan Przybyl, Executive Director of the Kenan Center, who has been working with collector Louise Simon Schoene and Mead to present the exhibit for the past year, concurs that the timing of exhibit is particularly meaningful. “Not only did the first exhibit held at the Kenan Center feature works Charles Burchfield, but the date it opened — April 30th — is William R. Kenan, Jr.’s birthday. This year, by some remarkable twist of fate, THREE GENERATIONS OF BURCHFIELDS will open on the same date.” While the exhibit, itself, will be a tremendous draw for art lovers and aficionados of Burchfield’s work. Przybyl hopes visitors will take time to discover the uniqueness of the Kenan Center. “Visitors are constantly awed by the spectacular, 19th century architecture of Mr. Kenan’s residence and the expansive grounds,” says Przybyl. “We want people to see for themselves what has made the Kenan Center a cultural treasure in eastern Niagara County for five decades.”
Collector Louise Simon Schoene comes from a background of business and civic activity as what she calls a “citizen diplomat.” She previously held the role of director and New York State Coordinator of Sister Cities International and currently serves as Vice President of American Women for International Understanding. She has devoted more than two decades to acquiring the Burchfield works in her collection, with a particular desire to bring Martha Burchfield Richter to greater national attention. Says Schoene: “This exhibition is personally meaningful to me because it is the culmination of almost twenty years of focused commitment – from my first Burchfield purchase and working to turn the idea of the Charles E. Burchfield Nature and Art Center in West Seneca into a reality, to my current service as a member of the Advisory Council of the Burchfield Penney Art Center.” An interesting side note is that Schoene loaned seven of Martha Burchfield Richter’s paintings to the producers of Marshall, the bio-pic about Thurgood Marshall which filmed here in Buffalo in the summer of 2016.
Guest curator, Gerald Mead, adds: “Renowned watercolorist Charles Burchfield and his artistic descendants quite possibly could be referred to as Western New York’s ‘first family’ of artists. It is highly appropriate therefore that this collection of their works, passionately acquired by collector Louise Schoene over many years, be presented at the Kenan Center in its year of celebration. This exhibition, which consists of works spanning nearly a century, provides a rare opportunity to see the work of Charles Burchfield in concert with his daughters Martha and Catherine and grand-daughter Peggy. It is also noteworthy that this exhibition includes the largest number of works by Martha Burchfield Richter on public view in decades.”
In addition to the exhibit, a special Tea & Tour will take place on May 21 from 1:00-3:00 p.m. giving visitors a chance to learn more about the works and the artists. The event will include light luncheon fare, tea, and dessert followed by a conversation with Schoene and Mead. The cost is $25 per person and advance reservations are required by calling 716-433-2617.
The exhibit continues through June 16 in the Kenan House Gallery, 433 Locust St, Lockport. Gallery hours are M-F, noon – 5 p.m.; Sundays, 2 – 5 p.m. The Gallery will also be open Saturdays, May 6 and June 10 from 2 -5 p.m., and during 100 American Craftsmen, 11 a.m. – 5 p.m. June 3, and noon – 5 p.m. June 4. The Gallery will be closed May 7 and 21, and 27 – 29 for Memorial Day Weekend.
The 2017 gallery exhibition sponsors are the Grigg Lewis Foundation, Kenan Arts Council, Kenan Quilters’ Guild, M&T Bank, and the William R. Kenan, Jr., Charitable Trust.
For information, go to kenancenter.org.