Cameron University Art Teaching Gallery opens with colorful exhibition by Jason Wilson

With the opening of the Art Teaching Gallery, Cameron University has restored a painting and drawing classroom in the Art Building of the Louise D. McMahon Fine Arts Complex to its original intended use - that of a secure gallery space that showcases national and local art exhibitions and competitions. The Art Teaching Gallery will be open to the public each week Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. when the university is open.

In addition to be used as a teaching space, the gallery will be used as a venue to host art exhibitions through the course of the academic year. Those exhibitions will feature nationally known artists, local public school artwork, and works by Cameron University art students and program graduates. 

“Art transforms in a setting that is a not a studio space but is a proper gallery,” says Edna McMillan, Professor of Art. “Our students will benefit greatly from seeing their artwork on display in a dedicated gallery. This will enhance our ability to conduct art critiques in a real-world gallery setting instead of in a painting and drawing studio that has limited wall space and is crowded with large easels and art supplies.”

Artist Jason Wilson discusses his unique masking teaching at the opening of the Cameron University Teaching Art Gallery.

The gallery currently features artwork by award-winning artist Jason Wilson, a color specialist who works in acrylics. His art will be on exhibit until the end of October. Wilson, a high school art teacher, takes inspiration from quilts and patterns found around him. He is renowned for creating illusions that trick the eye through the use of color and a meticulous masking technique that has taken him decades to perfect. In addition, he formulates a unique type of paint that doesn’t leave brushstrokes. His work has been exhibited in galleries across the country.

“I grew up with a grandmother and three great-grandmothers who quilted,” Wilson said during an opening reception of the gallery. “My inspiration comes directly from the quilting world.”

Wilson shared that he is now collaborating with a group of quilters who are creating original quilts inspired by his artwork, and he in turn will create artwork inspired by their creations.

“When Jason arrived to hang the show, it was an exciting moment,” says Katherine Liontas-Warren, Professor of Art. “We haven’t had a show like this in such a long time. Jason hosted our students after the show was up and engaged in a wonderful dialogue with them. It’s important that we bring in other artists so our students can be exposed to a different perspective of art.”

The tradition of exhibiting art on the Cameron campus dates to 1972, when the art program was added to the university’s curriculum. Exhibitions were held in various  buildings on campus for several years. With the completion of the second phase of the Louise D. McMahon Fine Arts Complex in 1980, the Art Building housed a dedicated gallery space that was managed by a professional gallery director.

For two decades, the Cameron University Art Gallery was a mainstay of the Lawton Fort Sill art scene, providing community members with opportunities to view critically acclaimed works by nationally renowned artists.  The gallery also hosted exhibitions and competitions for local public school students. When the gallery director position was eliminated due to budget constraints in 1987, members of the art faculty filled in to keep the gallery operational. Despite limited funding, the gallery continued to host exhibitions for the next 13 years, although on a reduced scale.

With the addition of graphic design to the art curriculum in 2000, a small studio teaching space was converted to a computer classroom, and the Cameron University Art Gallery, which was being utilized less and less, was converted to a large studio space where students could focus on figural drawing.

Almost 20 years later, the space has come full circle, as graphic design classes have been moved to another computer facility on campus, enabling that computer classroom to revert to a studio and paving the way for the Cameron University Art Teaching Gallery to become a reality.

“To be able to have this gallery space again allows us to more fully involve our community in art,” says Liontas-Warren. “In addition to hosting exhibitions by regional and national artists, we will be contacting local high school art teachers about exhibiting their student’s works in this gallery.”

Professor Emeritus Jack Bryan, who established Cameron’s art program and served as department chair before his retirement in 2000, had the foresight to realize that there would be a time when Cameron University could once again house a secure art exhibition space. When his friends and family established the Jack Bryan Endowed Lectureship in Art in November 2000, it was Bryan’s express wish that funds generated by the endowment be allowed to accrue until a new gallery location could be identified and that the endowment funding be used to create a gallery space.

“I applaud Jack in his foresight,” said Cameron University President John McArthur “There’s more to learning art than what happens in the classroom. What we do here at Cameron is about the people – the students, the faculty, staff, alumni, retirees and community members. As we continually look for ways to adapt our facilities to the needs of our current and future students, we are able to provide new opportunities in old buildings – or in this case, return an existing space to its original intended us. This would not have been possible without the endowment that was created to honor Jack when he retired.”

Bryan’s advance planning paved the way for the gallery space to undergo extensive renovation, with the installation of new lighting and wall covering.

“This is a way to further education and reach out to the community,” Bryan said of the gallery. “It allows people to see the importance of art as a human endeavor.”

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October 9, 2019