Resurgence of the Ste. Genevieve Summer School of Art
80 Years Later – Celebration June, 2014
The 1934 Ste. Genevieve Summer School of Art was the natural outgrowth of the Ste. Genevieve Art Colony, begun by an energetic group of St. Louis artists. It was the School's faculty, which included Thomas Hart Benton, Joe Jones, and Oscar Thalanger that drew major crowds. And now—80 years later—the Summer School is back, once again taught by several of the best Missouri artists – Billyo O'Donnell, Dan Woodward, and Bryan Haynes on three consecutive weekends:
June 13 (Friday) The Resurgence of the Ste. Genevieve Summer School of Art opens at 6pm with a reception at the historic Shaw House, site of the original Art Colony, on June 13th with a welcome by Missouri Master, artist Rick Bayers, member of the Ste. Genevieve Art Guild. Wine sponsored by Crown Valley Winery at the reception for the opening of the exhibit of art by the Colony School's only Ste. Genevieve resident, Matthew Ziegler, which includes some never-before-shown work, as well as highlights from his legacy as an art instructor. Immediately following at 7pm is the first evening forum of this event. Forums were open discussions of topics of the day as they related to art. We are pleased to welcome Julie Dunn-Morton, Curator of Fine Art at the St. Louis Mercantile Library, as the presenter at the first Forum on a look back at our artistic legacy.
June 14 (Saturday) begins with a Demonstration on Conceptual Ideas About Color with Billyo O'Donnell at 9am at 109 N. Main(see registration/fee information on the "Workshops" page under "Education" on this site). The demo will run until 12Noon, after which students will be doing individual painting en plein air. That this class coincides with the town's annual French Heritage Festival means there should be "models" in costume on Main Street. At 1pm a special plein air painting opportunity has been arranged at the gardens of the Jean Baptiste Valle House at the corner of Main and Market, which includes a live model. A special exhibit of art by one of the original Summer School Instructors Fred E. Conway and Students will be held at the Valle House from 10am to 4pm. Dance events fill the rest of the evening's festival, with Le Revellion period dancing at the Felix Valle House from 6:30 to 7:30pm and the street dance with Creole rhythms by Dennis Stroughmatt from 7:30 to 9:30pm on Main Street, which includes food and drink vendors. If you are not among those registered for Billyo's demonstration, there is plenty to do in the morning, starting with the Farmers Market from 7am to Noon at the Knights of Columbus at 600 E. Market, the French Heritage Festival Parade at Noon starting at Ste. Genevieve Catholic Church, Historic Home Tours (visit the Welcome Center for information and tickets), as well as the many shopping opportunities for crafts, antiques and collectibles in Historic Downtown. Also plan to visit the Bolduc House Museum's Summer School of Art 80th Anniversary Exhibit of privately held art, hours and location to be determined.
June 15 (Sunday) starts with a continuation of individual painting by course participants in the morning, with a display and critique of work created with discussion by Billyo, including his current philosphy related to his work. For those not registered for this event, the Ziegler exhibit will be open from 12N to 5pm, and the Bolduc House Museum exhibit will be open, hours and location to be determined.
June 21 (Saturday) begins at 9am (for those registered) with class and individual instruction in watercolor techniques by Dan Woodward, American Realist Painter at 109 N. Main. Class session breaks and noon and resumes from 1 to 4pm. The second of the forums begins at 7pm at the historic Shaw House at 2nd and Merchant Streets. This forum is a discussion of "Art and Politics" by Fine Arts Professor Jim Wilson of Mineral Area College. Preceding the forum at 6pm, there will be a book signing by Instructor Dan Woodward.
June 22 (Sunday) class by Dan Woodward continues with individual instruction as requested between 9am and 12pm. Display and critique of artwork created between 1 and 3pm.
June 27 (Friday) is the 4th Friday Art Walk from 6 to 9pm throughout the Historic District. Featured at the gallery at 109 N. Main is a book signing of New Regionalism - the Art of Bryan Haynes and an exhibit of the art of the three Summer School of Art instructors, Billyo O'Donnell, Dan Woodward, and Bryan Haynes. A popular attraction of each 4th Friday Art Walk is the chance of winning art - for $5.00 and visiting several galleries, a selected piece of original art will be given to one winner.
June 28 (Saturday) begins at 9am (for those registered) with class and individual instruction in portrayal of the figure in acrylic by Bryan Haynes, Neo-Regionalist Painter at 109 N. Main. Class session breaks and noon and resumes from 1 to 4pm. The third weekend Forum panel includes Kathryn Nahorski, Executive Director of the St. Louis Artists' Guild, Bonnie Rasmussen, a long-time member of the St. Louis Artists’ Guild, and Bryan Haynes, renowned artist who is also the teacher that weekend. They will be discussing and celebrating the long history of artistic collaboration between St. Louis and Ste. Genevieve with commentaries on the past and the future. All Forums are being held at the site of the original Ste. Genevieve Art Colony: the Shaw House at 2nd and Merchant Streets. Bryan Haynes will again be available to sign his new book from 6pm.
June 29 (Sunday) class by Bryan Haynes continues with individual instruction as requested between 9am and 12pm. Display and critique of artwork created between 1 and 3pm.
Activities for non-students are numerous and include the Forums, special Colony art exhibits, art book signings, historic home tours, open shops and galleries, and wineries. The art scene was alive on the streets of Ste. Genevieve in the summer of 1934—but come see what we're up to now! Art Happens Here!!!
To register for art instruction, go to the Workshops page under "Education" for a registration form, or send your name, address, email and phone number and correct amount of fees in a check payable to SGAG (Sainte Genevieve Art Guild) and mail it to Sainte Genevieve Art Guild, PO Box 283, Ste. Genevieve MO 63670. The fee for Billyo O'Donnell's demonstration is $100, limit 20 people. The fee for the workshops by Dan Woodward and Bryan Haynes are $75 each, limit 15 people. No registration is necessary for the free forums and exhibitions. Your registration will be confirmed by email. Due to limited space, reservations are accepted on a first-come, first-served basis.
The Missouri Arts Council, a State Agency, and the Ste. Genevieve County Community Foundation have provided financial assistance for this project.
In prior years, the annual celebration of the Art Colony legacy was known as Promenade des Arts. The Promenade was conceived and executed by a group of dedicated volunteers in 2001 as a celebration of Ste. Genevieve's proud artistic heritage. The site of the original Artists' Colony was the Shaw House, now part of the Felix Valle Historic Site, and permission was obtained from the State of Missouri to hold an exhibit of works by Colony artists. The Sainte Genevieve Art Guild adopted the event, and each year thereafter, an exhibit featuring an artist with connection to the Colony has been held at the Shaw House. But the foremost goal of the event remains to educate the public about the traditions of art in Sainte Genevieve.
The reception for the Promenade des Arts is the highlight of the event, and often includes presentations, commemorations and artistic or historic connections with the Colony and the featured artist(s). The very first Art Colony exhibit was held September 29, 1932, at the Shaw House, and the Promenade des Arts has always been held within a week or two of that date.
The following artists have been featured at previous Promenades:
|2001||Art Colony Artists|
|2008||Marie Catherine "Dolly Dufour" Surkamp|
|2010||Thomas Hart Benton|
|2012||Art Colony Founders: Jessie Beard Rickly, Bernard E. Peters, and Aimee Schweig|
The 2012 Promenade des Arts celebrated the 80th Anniversary of the founding of the colony with an exhibit of 28 works by the three founding artists.
The Art Colony Founders: Three figures were largely responsible for the creation of the summer art colony: Jessie Beard Rickly, Aimee Goldstone Schweig, and Bernard E. Peters. All three were St. Louisans who had experienced the creative stimulation of participating in already-famous artists’ communities on the East Coast. Hoping to be able to create a similar environment for artists in the Midwest, in the summer of 1932 they migrated to Sainte Genevieve. Why the founders selected Sainte Genevieve for their project was described by Rickly in a newspaper article from the period. There were two reasons she decided to spend the summer of 1932 painting in this city instead of at Gloucester or Provincetown, Massachusetts, she said. One was the Great Depression that had settled over the nation. The other was her “conviction that there were enough things worth painting in the Middle West, particularly at Ste. Genevieve, to make it worth while.”
The Shaw House as Studio: The plan for a summer colony moved quickly after Frank Nudescher, a friend of Peters who was known as “the painter of the Ozarks,” took Peters and Peters’ wife on their first visit to the town. Nudescher had been mpressed by the town’s architecture and quaintness. Peters was immediately taken with the community. He found a rental house in the center of town that would be suitable as a live-in studio--the Shaw House, now part of the Felix Valle State Historic Site. He let Rickly know of its availability. The Peters and the Ricklys decided to rent the house for the summer of 1932. Schweig, recently returned from the East and on her way to being well-known in art circles, signed on that same summer and played a leadership role. Other artists who visited and worked with colony that first summer included Vera Flinn, Miriam McKinnie, and Sister Cassiana Marie, along with Schweig’s young daughter, Martyl, and Sister Cassiana’s nephew, Sainte Genevieve resident Matthew E. Ziegler.
The Colony’s First Show: In the Fall of 1932, the artists held their first show. Reports from the period say some 200 people attended the event, held at the Shaw House studio. Later, an exhibition of the art created here was mounted at the St. Louis Artists Guild and was well-received. Other artists joined the founders over the years, and by 1934 the Summer School of Art had been established. Over the next few years, notable artists were associated with the group, including Fred Conway, E. Oscar Thalinger, Joseph “Joe” Jones (who visited the Colony during its initial year), Joseph Paul Vorst, and art world luminary Thomas Hart Benton. (However, Rickly severed her ties with the project in 1935.) The Colony and school won significant attention and critical acclaim. But local events––notably strikes at area lime plants––changed the atmosphere of the town in 1937, and damped the enthusiasm of the artists. Deepening economic troubles, both locally and nationwide,also played a role in the cancellation of the Summer School of Art after that year. While Schweig, Peters and a few others made occasional visits to Sainte Genevieve after 1938 (Schweig kept a lease on the Shaw house until 1941), U.S. entry into World War II ultimately brought the demise of the Colony. But the Colony artists left their mark here and in far broader art circles.
The Lasting Legacy: During their tenure in Sainte Genevieve, the artists and students focused on the subjects they found here: the beauty of the countryside, the quaint charm of the little town’s historic architecture, and the people who lived in this small community. The works are vibrant examples of the Regionalism movement and a vivid portrait of the town as it was then. Equally important is the fact that ongoing interest in the Colony has provided the stimulus for the development of the contemporary art scene in Sainte Genevieve. A talented and active art community, a thriving local art guild, over a dozen public art venues, and a year-round schedule of art events are part of the Colony legacy. Today––even seven decades after the Colony closed its doors––Sainte Genevieve is home to and at home with the visual arts. Indeed, the town still can proudly proclaim: Art happens here!
For biographies on Art Colony artists, two books are an excellent reference:
Rogers, James. G., Jr. The Ste. Genevieve Artists' Colony and Summer School of Art 1932-1941, Foundation for Restoration Sainte Genevieve, Missouri 1998
Kerr, Scott and Dick, R. H. An American Art Colony; the Art and Artists of Ste. Genevieve, Missouri 1930-1940. St. Louis Mercantile Library, 2004