Amy Fracker, Assistant Director
Jackson School of the Arts
I did not grow up in Jackson. I moved here from Ann Arbor with my husband, who is from Jackson. Now I know moving here was a great choice, but at first it was a little hard to adjust after living in Ann Arbor and Minneapolis.
One of the first things I did was to check out the art scene. I was impressed with the downtown Louise Nevelson sculpture. As a student of art history, I immediately called my professors to brag about the iconic Summer Night Tree.
Jackson is a town of hidden gems and it’s been fun to search and discover them. Jackson is so much more than a prison town. We have been involved in major aspects of American History. Heck, the survey of the State of Michigan began in Jackson County, Baseline and Meridian. Don’t get me started on the incredible contributions people from Jackson made during the Civil War. History is filled with interesting characters, but none as interesting as artists.
Artists from Jackson have made major impacts on the art world, none as much as Philip C. Curtis. Philip C. Curtis was an American painter best remembered for his surrealist-inspired style scenes often featuring figures in Victorian dress. He was called a “Magical Realist,” and “Magritte of the Old West” by some writers. He received a B.A. from Albion College then studied law, at the University of Michigan. Ultimately deciding on a career in art, he enrolled in Yale University School of Fine Art.
After graduation he worked for the Works Progress Administration as assistant supervisor of the Manhattan Mural Project. He then was sent to Phoenix to start an arts center that is today the Phoenix Art Museum. Following that success, he went to Iowa and started the Des Moines Art Center. After serving in WWII as a member of the Strategic Office Services he returned to Arizona and focused on his own art where he lived and painted until he passed in 2000. What’s interesting to me is that so much of his subject matter was of Jackson and memories of growing up here but placed in the Arizona desert.
Today his works are at the Phoenix Art Museum in a wing dedicated to his work, at the National Museum of Art, the Museum of Modern Art and in many private collections.
The Ganton Art Center at Spring Arbor University is hosting an exhibit of 49 Curtis works from February 5 to March 12, 2017. Gallery hours are Monday – Friday 9:00 am – 5:00 am. Saturday & Sunday 1:00 – 5:00 pm. Jackson School of the Arts is sponsoring the children’s area with amazing interactive activities area that will engage young, curious minds. Field trips are also available at no cost. Admission to the gallery is free and there is a free community reception on February 12, 2-4 PM.
For more information, contact Ganton Art Gallery at Spring Arbor University 517-750-6641. www.arbor.edu/curtis