Field trips share Powell’s legacy with students

Published 2:13 pm Tuesday, October 25, 2022

During his years at Centre College, Stephen Rolfe Powell was known not only as an exceptional artist, but as a teacher and mentor. From the students who fondly remember his classes to the artists who trace their career’s trajectory to his formative instruction, Powell’s greatest legacy was in the lives he touched.

The current retrospective exhibit at Art Center of the Bluegrass – “The Power of Color” – is continuing that legacy by introducing a new generation of children to the life and work of the master glassblower.

The exhibit is on display for nine weeks. In that time, more than 900 students will visit the show for free, interactive field trips, thanks to a grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services. The Art Center was a recipient of funding via the highly competitive “Inspire! Grants for Small Museums” federal grant program.

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Although the Art Center has more than a decade of experience in organizing museum field trips, this exhibit required special planning.

“The thought of bringing hundreds of children into a gallery full of irreplaceable glass objects was daunting,” said museum program director Leigh Jefferson. “But we were committed to making it work because we knew we wanted to share this exhibit with students.”

The Powell field trip is divided into two components. First, Jefferson leads a guided gallery talk that provides information about the artist and his work, while introducing art concepts like color, form, light, and shape.

Visits to the Art Center are always a hands-on experience, which also presented challenges during this exhibit.

“Obviously we knew the students couldn’t work directly with glass,” said Art Center education director Dionna Baker. “The project we designed captured the interplay of color and texture and shape that is central to Stephen’s work, while also introducing students to art supplies they might not have used before.”

While visiting the Art Center, students use oil pastels and liquid watercolor paints on heavy paper to design their own Powell-inspired forms.

For families in the community, staff created art projects for Lisi’s Art Lab and the Art Box that relate to the Powell exhibit. Lisi’s Lab is a free children’s art studio located on the second floor of the Art Center.

Families can stop by whenever the Art Center is open to use the supplies in the studio. The current featured project is tissue paper “stained glass,” designed to evoke the colors and feel of the glass on exhibit. A similar, smaller project is available as a take-home kit via the Art Box located in front of the Art Center.

The Art Center’s commitment to Powell’s legacy won’t conclude with the end of the exhibit. In 2019, the organization established the Stephen Rolfe Powell Memorial Fund for Children’s Art. Contributions to the Fund are used to support children’s programming, including classes, outreach programs, and the new Youth Advisory Council, coming in 2023. The Powell retrospective exhibit is free to the public. Any donations made by visitors will be used to support the Memorial Fund.

“The Power of Color: A Stephen Rolfe Powell Retrospective” will be on display through Oct. 29. The exhibit is free to the public and is open 11 a.m.-7 p.m. Tuesday-Friday, and 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturdays.