Designing the Museum: A Visit with East Central University Gallery Director Taryn Chubb

On April 19, a group of students from OSU’s Art History Organization, along with three art history faculty members, went to Ada, Oklahoma to visit East Central University and to hear a guest lecture by Dr. Cynthia Robinson, a medievalist who studies Islamic art at Cornell University. We arrived early, and our ECU host, professor and gallery director Taryn Chubb, invited us to explore the Hallie Brown Ford Fine Arts Center, which includes ECU’s Pogue Art Gallery as well as two theatres, a television studio, art studios, music practice rooms, a set construction workshop, and other facilities for the creative and performing arts. The building is filled with art from ECU’s permanent collection; while we were there, the Pogue Gallery was exhibiting the 58th Annual Student Exhibition. Continuing my series of explorations of university galleries, I asked Professor Chubb to tell us about her work with the Gallery.

Taryn Chubb, a medievalist art historian, teaches art history and appreciation at East Central University, in addition to serving as Director for the Pogue Art Gallery.

TC: I began working at East Central University in the fall of 2010, one year after the Hallie Brown Ford Fine Arts Center opened. As gallery director I am responsible for scheduling and installing ten to twelve exhibitions per year in the Pogue Gallery. The shows change at least month to month if not week to week from September to May. Most of the exhibits in the gallery are the work of contemporary artists from this region, but our seniors also have the opportunity install their work in the gallery as part of their capstone project. We have annual faculty and student exhibits in the spring and occasionally exhibit works from the permanent collection that are not normally on view elsewhere on campus. In addition, we always have a single summer show, usually to exhibit the work of well-known artists or ECU alumni. This summer’s exhibit, for example, will be a retrospective of the work of D.J. Lafon, who was chair of the Art Department at ECU from 1965 to 1985 and who was part of the “Ada Trio,” which also included Bob Seig and Bob Barker.

A view of the Pogue Art Gallery at ECU, showing the 58th Annual Student Exhibition.

In addition to organizing temporary exhibits in the Pogue Gallery, I am also curator of ECU’s permanent collection of art, which consists of about 500 objects. One of the greatest strengths of this collection is the diversity of those objects, which include works of art from both the Western and non-Western worlds. For a teaching institution, this is particularly beneficial because it provides opportunities for students to view, experience, and study a broad range of original works of art.  This not only applies to art majors, but also to those students taking art history courses as part of their general education requirements. I incorporate the permanent collection into all of the art history courses I teach and the studio faculty also frequently use works in the collection for instructive purposes. The highlights of our collection include several examples of Native American pottery, a number of Japanese ukiyo-e prints, a double-sided charcoal drawing attributed to Henri Matisse, and prints by Goya, Dalí and several Chicago Funk artists. ECU also has the third largest collection of Leon Polk Smith’s work in the United States (Smith graduated from ECU in 1934).

OSU Art History Organization students looking at works from the ECU permanent collection, on view in the Hallie Brown Ford Fine Arts Center.

We usually acquire between five and ten new works of art each year, either donated by private collectors or by recent graduates. Much of the permanent collection that is currently on view is the work of our alumni, who often give one or two pieces from their senior exhibits to the university. One of our most recent acquisitions is D.J. Lafon’s Shaker Man, a redwood sculpture that has been transferred to ECU from the Fred Jones Jr. Museum of Art at the University of Oklahoma, which we hope to install by the end of May.

Two untitled works by Nichole Chesser, a senior at ECU. To see more of the students’ work up close, visit the ECU Art page on Facebook (link at the bottom of this post).

For a regional university, ECU has an extraordinary art collection and it is not only an important asset to the university community, but also to the citizens of Ada and the surrounding area. Our students certainly utilize the collection during their time here, but now that much of the work is on view in the Fine Arts Center, it is more accessible to visitors. For our patrons who are not able to travel to larger cities to go to museums and art galleries, both the permanent collection and the temporary exhibits in the gallery offer unique opportunities to experience and interact with original works of art.

View of the gallery doors with ceramics case. The Pogue Art Gallery blends seamlessly with the artwork from the permanent collection that is displayed throughout the Fine Arts Center. Here, ceramics from the permanent collection are visible alongside works from the student exhibition that lead into the gallery.

“D.J. Lafon: A Retrospective” will be on view in the Pogue Gallery in the Hallie Brown Ford Fine Arts Center from June 5 – August 31. The opening reception will be held on June 5 from 5:00 p.m. – 8:00 p.m. The Pogue Gallery is open weekdays from 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. For more information and photos of past exhibitions and events, visit the ECU Art Department on Facebook!

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About osucurator

Louise Siddons is Associate Professor of Art History at Oklahoma State University and founding curator of the Oklahoma State University Museum of Art. She maintains this blog as a record of her students' work with the Museum's permanent collection as well as more generally with topics related to museum studies.
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