Smith Center Galleries reopen with combined exhibits

Photo Credit: fotosipsak/iStock Photo

The Augusta County Historical Society and the Staunton Augusta Art Center announced a combined reopening of their exhibit galleries to the public, on a limited, reservation-based system on Friday and Saturday evenings, starting this Friday.

‘Round about Midnight, paintings by Angus Carter, will be featured in the first-floor art galleries of the R.R. Smith Center for History and Art in downtown Staunton. Painters & Printers: Waynesboro artists Charles Smith and George Speck will be on display in the adjoining history gallery.

The historical society and the art center have joined together to slowly and cautiously open the two exhibits on Friday and Saturday evenings from 5-8 p.m. by reservation only. The exhibits are free, and the online registration system will allow the exhibits to be enjoyed in a safe manner during the ongoing health situation. No more than 10 visitors will be allowed in the galleries at one time and masks are required.

‘Round About Midnight, which runs through August 1, features art by Carter, a local painter, filmmaker and photographer who developed a deep love of art throughout childhood and has worked in a number of media over the years. His latest body of work emerged as a reaction to social and environmental issues.

“In January due to the constant threat of climate change and increased nuclear proliferation, the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists moved the Doomsday Clock to 100 seconds to midnight, the closest the world has been to metaphorical annihilation,” Carter writes. “Since then the world has experienced a global pandemic and worldwide shutdown, while America has begun dealing with its sad racial legacy all while becoming increasingly fractured amid political divisions.

“Navigating this new reality can be fraught and overwhelming. This series of work is my attempt to make sense of it all; to highlight the fears and anxieties, the social injustices and disparities. While somber at moments, this work should not be viewed through the lens of nihilistic defeatism but should be viewed as a reflection of where we were as a society, where we are now and where we can head if we chose to all focus on building a better world for each other,” he concluded.

The historical society exhibit features two local artists whose work gained international fame. Although neither Charles Smith nor his student George Speck were born in Waynesboro (Smith was born in Lofton in Augusta County and Speck in Charlottesville), the nurturing environment of the industrial boomtown of early 20th-century Waynesboro shaped the personalities and the art of both men. Each man dabbled in a variety of media, but both won lasting fame for their sophisticated and intricate block printing, a skill that has its roots in the factories and foundries along the South River.

Included in the ACHS exhibit will be a number of prints from Smith and Speck, many of which are on loan from the Waynesboro Public Library. Also on display will be a number of the woodcarving tools and printing blocks made by Speck.

An exciting addition to the exhibit will be a film made by the University of Virginia in 1959 documenting Smith’s artistic process. The movie of Smith, the former head of the university’s art department, has been restored and digitized and will be showing in the History Gallery.

Smith, the older of the two artists featured in the exhibit, was born in 1893, a little more than 30 years before Speck. The lives of the two men traveled in intersecting circles with Smith becoming Speck’s art teacher and mentor. Both had connections to Fairfax Hall, a girls’ school in Waynesboro, both were connected to the University of Virginia, and both were heavily influenced by the industrial shops of Waynesboro and Basic City, where wood carving and metal engraving took place daily.

The Staunton Augusta Art Center and the Augusta County Historical Society are located in the historic R.R. Smith Center at 20 S. New St. in downtown Staunton. At this time, the galleries are accessible for events on a reservation basis only.

Guests are asked to wear masks upon entering the building and to adhere to social distancing guidelines

Cost: Free and open to the public. Reservations required.

Times: Friday and Saturday evenings (5-8pm) from June 26- Aug. 1. The ACHS exhibit will remain until the end of the year (Dec. 31).

Reservations:  To reserve through the Staunton Augusta Art Center office, contact Carolyn Maloney at 540-885-2028.

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