Friday April 22 marked the end of a project that had lasted for years. President Michael Lindsay attended, along with former Taylor University presidents Eugene Habecker, Lowell Haines and Paige Cunningham. Each had played a pivotal role in this endeavor, and now they were soaking up the festive atmosphere inside Helena Memorial Hall.
At 4:43 p.m., “A Step Ahead of Winter” by Bill Anton was unveiled to a round of applause. The Boren Art Gallery was officially operational.
“It’s been long and long,” said special assistant to the president Ron Sutherland. “When you see something that has taken so long to come to fruition, it’s especially gratifying.”
Leland and LaRita Boren’s collection of Western and Native American art includes over 500 quality pieces, ranging from vivid oil paintings and watercolors to bronzes. Subjects range from portraits of Native Americans to wild and untamed landscapes of the West.
John Vanausdall, who is the President and CEO of the Eiteljorg Museum, was present for the opening of the gallery. The Eiteljorg Museum is located in Indianapolis and also focuses on Western and Indigenous art. For Vanausdall, only the size of the collection deserves recognition.
“(Leland and LaRita) put together amazing works, and when they really liked an artist, they bought multiples of that artist,” Vanausdall said. “Imagine a private collection of 500 works; it’s extraordinary.”
According to Vanausdall, Western art is appearing in more and more galleries across the country. It is no longer the case that destinations like the Eiteljorg Museum or the Autry Museum in Los Angeles are the only places dedicated to authentic Western masterpieces. The Boren Gallery is proof of this.
Vanausdall also pointed out that this style of art has a special ability to connect with viewers. This is an ability that some genres lack.
“Almost every one of these paintings tells a story,” Vanausdall said. “And the artist doesn’t necessarily tell you what that story is, but you can create your own story out of what you watch.”
With the Boren Art Gallery now just steps from Metcalf, the art scene here in Taylor and throughout Grant County continues to grow.
For gallery director Kenton Stiles, Helena Memorial Hall will not only serve as a space to appreciate great art, but it will also be dedicated to nurturing, educating and engaging the community.
“The future at this point is limitless,” Stiles said. “It’s just about finding ways to attract people at a time when many schools no longer have the ability to do field trips.”
The gallery includes a classroom on the third level, the plan being that it will accommodate students at all levels. Besides Taylor University, Grant County is home to a number of schools ranging from elementary to graduate education.
“One thing that Taylor’s art department was really adamant about is that when we take on this project, it has to be educational,” Stiles said. “We want a classroom. We don’t just want it to be art for art’s sake and that’s the end of the dialogue.
Vice President for Cross-Cultural Leadership and Church Relations Greg Dyson has previously been in touch with Stiles to discuss the impact the gallery can have on students and various groups on campus.
Admiring the scene of students, grandparents, and professors on the third floor, former President Cunningham reflected on how Helena Memorial Hall was the perfect home for the Boren collection.
“It’s just a beautiful setting to display an incredible collection; a very focused art collection,” Cunningham said.
The Boren Art Gallery was a project that spanned many years and multiple changes of direction; however, the gallery recalls that everyone involved persevered to turn dreams into reality.
“Now the whole collection is here in a space designed for art, and I think (the Borens) would say, ‘Bravo,'” Cunningham said. “…I think they would like that.”