Art Society brings Gond art to campus


Chair of the RU Arts Society Dr. Myrl Jones (from left), Jeff Armistead and Lorene Jones

One of South Asia's most vibrant contemporary indigenous art movements is coming to Radford University during the fall 2015 semester.

The Pardhan Gond art exhibit, the first of its kind in the U.S., will appear at the RU Art Museum beginning in September. The exhibition will feature paintings, drawings, sculpture and animated film by central India's contemporary Gond tribal artists.

John Bowles, curator of the upcoming exhibit, spoke about the art collection Feb. 20 at the RU's Art Society's annual Give Your Heart to Art fundraising event at the Covington Center for Visual and Performing Arts.

Serving as guest speaker for the event, Bowles shared stories of some of the artists – a few of whom will visit campus during the exhibit – and provided insight into programs being developed by RU faculty around the exhibition, which will be titled "Painted Songs & Stories: The Hybrid Flowerings of Contemporary Pardhan Gond."


Exhibit curator John Bowles with President Penelope Kyle.

Bowles also thanked those in attendance for "turning out on this cold winter's night to demonstrate your enthusiastic support of the visual arts."

During the evening, Gond paintings and sculptures lined the walls of the oval-shaped Covington Center foyer, giving visitors a preview of the exhibition.

"It's really colorful. It's really animated," said Steve Arbury, director of the RU Art Museum. "There is a certain aboriginal quality to it that you find in a lot of tribal art, whether it's from India, or Mexico, or Australia or other countries. There is a certain commonality of style, and this fits right in."

Myrl Jones, chair of the RU Arts Society, said bringing the Gond art to RU is "a real coup" for the RU community. "There aren't many places in the United States where you can see this art, particularly as much of it as we will have here."

The Gond collection is not the first that Bowles, a longtime supporter of the university, has brought to campus for the benefit of RU students and community.


Carolee Bondurant (left) with Kathryn Bondurant Smith.

In 1992, Bowles donated to Radford University much of his personal collection of Huichol art created by contemporary artists from Northwest Mexico's Huichol tribe. The collection totals 60 yarn paintings, 12 of which are on permanent display at Selu Conservancy's seven-sided meeting room. The rest of the collection can be seen and studied in the RU Art Museum, where it's available for annual exhibitions and outside loans.

"Thanks to John's generosity, the university now has one of the world's leading public collections of contemporary Huichol art," said RU President Penelope W. Kyle while introducing Bowles. "For example, the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts has circulated its own statewide touring Huichol exhibition, developed entirely from our collection."

President Kyle also praised Bowles for his commitment to RU's arts programs. "He is as passionate about the arts as you are," the president said. "He is a great supporter of the arts here at Radford and we are grateful for the opportunities that his support gives to our faculty and our students, especially the opportunity for them to learn about international art."

The RU Arts Society supports creativity, award-winning talent, performances, community outreach and student scholarship. The Give Your Heart to Art Dinner is dedicated to enriching the student experience at RU by building the university's collection of fine art.

"As members of the Arts Society, your passion for RU's visual and performing arts programs and your support of our students' successes in those areas is much, much appreciated by all us here at the university," Kyle said


Exhibit curator John Bowles (right) talks with Roann Barris, chair of RU's art department.

Mar 6, 2015