A love and appreciation for the arts was engrained in the mission of Truman State University decades ago. Today on Truman’s campus students have the opportunity to display works of their own, as well as view work from artists all over the world at the University Art Gallery. The current gallery was built the mid-1980s and is located in Ophelia Parrish, one of the oldest buildings on Truman’s campus. Originally built in early 1923, Ophelia Parrish is named after the director of the Model School in Kirksville and the first head librarian at the university. For several decades, the building was used as a model school and then as Kirksville’s junior high school until the early 1980s. Truman (then Northeast Missouri State) renovated the former gymnasium for use as the art gallery. Ophelia Parrish underwent another facelift in1999 closing the building for almost three years. Once the renovation was complete one of the best fine arts facilities in the Midwest was revealed. The twenty-foot ceilings and 3,600 square feet provide ample space for the large exhibits that come to Truman each year.
Aaron Fine, associate professor of art and director of the University Art Gallery began his career at Truman in 1999 during the renovation. After the renovation process was complete, Professor Fine and the fine arts department improved the standing of the art gallery into a regional center for the arts. He reports that the biggest exhibition of the year is typically the National Art Competition, which has been held at Truman for the past fifteen years. The National Art Competition brings art work from all over the Midwest and the nation to Kirksville. Other large events in the past have included shows like the Traditional Textiles of Indochina and Rendering Gender.
Truman’s gallery also takes advantage of the outstanding artistic talent of current students. The educational mission of the gallery is served each year with the display of faculty exhibits, juried exhibits, and thesis exhibits for graduating fine arts majors. Another strong area for the art gallery is its fundraising ability. According to Fine, five years of successful fundraising has resulted in a permanent endowment. The endowment helps to ensure long-term financial security for the art gallery and the ability to fund new exhibits in the future.
So what does the art gallery have in store for the future? One upcoming exhibit titled Dimensions Variable has Professor Fine truly excited. He describes the exhibit as, “small structures that can be stacked to fill a large space.” All of the pieces must be shipped in small UPS packages and reassembled once they arrive at the gallery. Admission to the University Art Gallery is free to the public so there is no excuse not to check out the current exhibit on display next time you are on campus. The gallery is open Monday-Thursday from 8:30am until 7:00pm, Friday from 8:30am until 5:00pm, and Saturday from 12:00pm until 4:30pm.
-article written by Robert Kelchen