The Night the Stars Came Out on Campus

Dressed to the nines, patrons of the arts hobnobbed with community leaders. As cameras flashed, the news media interviewed guests at the gala while the wait staff circulated with silver trays to offer appetizers and glasses of wine.

The scene rivaled New York’s trendy SoHo District on January 20, 2011, opening night at the Radford University Art Museum for the exhibition, “Van Gogh, Lichtenstein, Whistler: Masterpieces of World Art from the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts.”

arts patrons

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The exhibition, which continued through March 4, 2011, in the Covington Center for Visual and Performing Arts, featured 29 selected masterpieces, some dating as far back as 3,000 years ago. In her welcoming remarks, President Kyle shared her thoughts on the 18 months of planning required for the most significant art show the university has presented.

“Suddenly we at Radford were getting stars in our eyes,” Kyle said, capturing the university’s pride and excitement at hosting the once-in-a-lifetime exhibition. “Now the stars are not just in our eyes,” she said, gesturing toward the gallery. “They’re on our walls.”

The traveling exhibition, created to celebrate the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts’ 75th anniversary, is the first of what she hopes will be a series of high-profile artistic endeavors hosted at the RU Art Museum, Kyle said. The VMFA exhibition perfectly embodies the cultural opportunities that planners envisioned for the Covington Center leading up to its 2009 opening, she said.

The president recognized the contribution of Barbara-lyn Belcher Morris ’66, who played a key role in bringing the art collection to Radford University. She also thanked Art Department Chair Richard Bay, RU Art Museum Director Steve Arbury and VMFA officials, specifically Director Alex Nyerges.
For Nyerges, the enthusiasm and energy in the gallery on opening night were the natural result of the arts community’s hard work, coordinated efforts and passion. “The Virginia Museum of Fine Arts is the largest state art museum in the nation, and our service to more than 200 statewide partners is unparalleled,” Nyerges said.

He cited the visits that VMFA representatives made to partners across the commonwealth to learn their interests and hear valuable feedback. “We asked what they would like most from the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts,” Nyerges said, “and they requested exhibitions of the museum’s most celebrated works from all cultures.”

As guests crowded the gallery to see the exhibition, exclaiming over individual masterpieces, Bay took a moment to reflect. “This has been special,” he said, then paused. “It’s going to be really hard to see it leave.”