The Columbus Museum of Art recently unveiled its George Bellows Center, a space devoted to providing opportunities for scholarly research, exhibitions, publications and public programs related to the Columbus-born artist and his contemporaries.
The center, which opened Nov. 4, is dedicated to American realist and modernist painter George Bellows, an Ohio State alumnus who is well known for his paintings of urban life in New York, as well as his talent with landscape and portrait paintings, Nannette Maciejunes, executive director and CEO of the museum, said.
“It’s great to be centered on George Bellows and grow out from there,” Maciejunes said. “He came from here, and he became one of the most important painters of his generation, and so that’s exciting for us.”
The space includes a gallery that will display a rotating selection of Bellows’ art and exhibitions, as well as a study space for scholars and students, Maciejunes said. She said the center is the first space of its kind at the museum.
“We did not have a space where scholars and students could gather and have conversations or look at documentation, research from the collection, or have something brought up from storage,” Maciejunes said. “We’re willing to bring works of art up into the space for scholars, for students, for regular people who would love to see something in our collection and have time to spend with it and study it.”
The Columbus Museum of Art holds the single most important collection of Bellows’ work in the United States, according to the center’s website , and continues to add to its collection of the artist’s lithographs — created using a print-making method — and other paintings.
Bellows was part of a groundbreaking group of New York-based artists, the Ashcan School, who changed the trajectory of American art by focusing on elements of everyday life, according to the center’s website . Many of his pieces reflect social justice concerns related to immigration and World War II.
“He was willing to do more risk-taking in terms of his social justice subjects, tougher subjects he was willing to undertake with printmaking that he could do, that he could not as effectively do in a painting,” Maciejunes said.
Access to the center and its services is currently available by appointment, Maciejunes said, but the museum will have public hours for the center in the future. She said she hopes people will take advantage of the opportunity to learn more about Bellows and take pride in him as a Columbus-grown artist.
“These are artists that came from our community that we should be eminently proud of, and know their stories and know, you know, what’s possible coming out of Columbus,” Maciejunes said.
The center was made possible by a donation from the Shackelford family, longtime donors to the museum, Lucy Ackley, deputy executive director of advancement at the museum, said.
“They love George Bellows and as they were kind of thinking about something to do for the museum, this sort of began to come together,” Ackley said. “They just kind of felt that they wanted to make sure that George Bellows was never forgotten in Columbus.”
Ackley said she is excited to have a center in the museum that celebrates a well-loved, Columbus-born artist.
“He never forgot his roots here,” Ackley said. “I think that just makes it so perfect, that we have a space, a center, dedicated to his incredible work. I mean, he was an incredible artist, and it’s just kind of like, he’s really kind of a hometown hero, and for us to be the ones to keep that legacy alive, I think is the best part of it.”
The George Bellows Center is housed within the Columbus Museum of Art, located at 480 E. Broad St. Access to the center is available by appointment. More information can be found on the center’s website .