Photo exhibit in Arkadelphia includes art, history

By Wayne Bryan Published January 9, 2014 at 12:00 a.m.
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PHOTO BY: Rusty Hubbard

Beverly Buys holds one of the photos from the exhibition Sometimes All That Remains Are Visions and Dreams: School Days in Clark County, Arkansas (1920-1930), a series of prints created by photographer and artist Rhonda Berry utilizing images from large-format negatives of Clark County Schools that are a part of the Jane Ross Photographic Archive, which is housed at Henderson State University in Arkadelphia.

ARKADELPHIA — The latest exhibit at the Arkadelphia Arts Center is a unique display of photographs from the 1920s.

Sometimes All That Remains Are Visions and Dreams: School Days in Clark County, Arkansas (1920-1930) features prints created by photographer and artist Rhonda Berry, using images from the Jane Ross Photographic Archive at Henderson State University. The photos are of schools, teachers and students in Clark County during that decade.

“The exhibit honors the memory of Jane Ross and her interest and support of education in Clark County, as well has her professional enthusiasm for photography,” said Rita Earles with the arts center. “The images are good artistic efforts to bring the photos into the 21st century, yet they still retain the story of the past.”

Earles said viewing the photos is “more like a history lesson because you step into the past.”

The original photos are from the collection of Jane Ross, who operated her family’s timber business, and who, along with her sister Ester, established the Ross Foundation, one of the major supporters of the Arkadelphia Promise Scholarship. Ross herself was a photographer and naturalist.

“This is the first major show of the work in years,” said Beverly Buys, an art professor at Henderson, who is director and adviser for the Ross photo archive and has been working with the photos for 14 years. “We did have a large exhibition with a big retrospective of the photos the first year we had the collection in 2000.”

Over the years, Buys said, those involved in the archives have worked to clean the negatives and preserve the photographs. The collection of photographs is about to be moved to the Huie Library on campus, where they will be part of the special collections.

Rhonda Berry, a graduate of Henderson State and a teacher at Fordyce High School, has worked with the archive in the past and was familiar with the collection.

She was invited to work on the exhibit.

“She had ideas, and we got her involved,” Buys said.

Buys said Berry worked with the negatives of the original Ross photographs of schools in the county.

“She then had the idea to find the old schools and photograph them as well,” Buys said. “Rhonda didn’t find much, but she blended the negatives with her photos, which also included plants and leaves, as a references to Ross’ work as a naturalist.”

Sometimes only a detail of the large-format negatives were used in the photos in the exhibition, and the negatives were overlaid with Berry’s nature photography.

“There are 33 smaller images with three to a frame,” said Buys, who helped install the exhibition on Monday. “Then there are 11 large collage images.”

Buys said that at some point over the years, before the university was given the collection, someone typed the names of the schools in the photos and taped the paper labels to pictures.

“Those small tags were left on the photograph where the new images were made and are part of the final image,” Buys said.

The Ross Photography Project, made up of Buys, Berry and Rebecca Hall Fulmer, curator and writer, will host a reception from 4:30-6 p.m. today for the opening of the exhibition at the arts center on Main Street.

“We picked the time when people will be leaving work and will be able to stop by and see the exhibit on their way home,” Earles said. “As the arts center offers more diverse exhibitions, it is hoped that more people will feel a part of the arts center.”

The photographs will be on display through Jan. 25. The Arkadelphia Arts Center is open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.Wednesday through Friday, and from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday. For more information, call (870) 245-3612.

Staff writer Wayne Bryan can be reached at (501) 244-4460 or at wbryan@arkansasonline.com.

Tri-Lakes Edition Writer Wayne Bryan can be reached at 501-244-4460 or wbryan@arkansasonline.com.

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