By Amy Huber, Editor –
MCC’s current art exhibit combines both history and learning.
“I would say that the primary goal of this exhibition is to put on display early works from
the collection not just because they are ‘old,’ but because many of them represent important local
and regional history that will be lost if we don't research and record it now,” said Keith Downie,
The exhibit, titled “Artwork from MCC’s Permanent Collection,” runs from March 13
through April 23, with a public reception from 3:30 to 5 p.m. on Thursday, March 23.
Downie is teaching ART 250 Gallery/Collection Practicum, a course where students learn
the ins and outs of museum curating. Students are taught proper handling techniques and care of
“We’re learning how to place pieces together so they complement each other,” said
Corena Golliver, a student in Downie’s class. “These are little-seen works that have been around
the college for a long time and are therefore in need of restoration, particularly on the matting.
We are learning how to frame, show, and exhibit with real-life examples.”
Students assist art faculty in the basic operations of the Overbrook Art Gallery. The class
has spent the semester restoring, matting and re-framing MCC’s permanent collection.
“The permanent collection is now over 50 years old and part of my class’s effort is to
ensure that these works last another fifty years,” said Downie. “We've taken measures to improve
the physical state of the pieces in the exhibit – particularly works on paper – by removing them
from framing materials that are a threat to their longevity due to the use of poor quality matting
and backing. This was very common at the time most of these works were originally framed. So
now we've remounted and re-matted all of them in archival grade materials.”
Students are also researching artists. Due to the age of some of the works, efforts are
being made to find the artists and gather information while they are still alive.
“We are also doing research about the artists and their respective works,” Downie said.
“Because most of these artists are known only locally or regionally, there are not extensive
biographical or art historical records about them.”
One of the pieces in this exhibit is a watercolor by Adde Lou Garter entitled “Slopes.”
This piece from 1979, which won an award in an art educators’ exhibit, was painted from
“I painted in watercolor because I had the love of the medium of watercolors,” said
Garter. “I like the happy accidents that happen.”
While Garter was an easy artist to find and learn a history of her piece, some of the other
works are more difficult. On one in particular, the signature is difficult to read. The piece itself
appears to be from the Sixties.
“A small collection like this one does not contain many masterpieces,” said Downie, “but
there are many very fine works that represent the efforts of regional artists, and perhaps most
importantly, these works document significant local art history. We’re working hard to uncover
the history before it gets lost.”
One problem Downie’s students have encountered is that the materials used when these
works were produced are far different from those used today, particularly the matting. Older
materials tend to degrade the artwork, but newer more advanced materials tend to protect them
from having that happen. Nearly all the art in the current exhibit was re-matted.
One of the most valuable pieces of the collection is an abstract expressionist sculpture
from 2003 of two fish by artist G. Kamrowski titled “Single Parent.” Originally purchased for a
couple hundred dollars, it has increased in value through the years. According to Downie, the
increased value of this piece is because the artist was an acquaintance of Jackson Pollock, a
famous abstract expressionist.
The oldest piece in the exhibit is from 1965, a landscape painting titled, “Iowa City
Bridge” by the late Pete Caesar, a local artist.
Featured Image: Among the most valuable pieces in the current Overbrook exhibit is this sculpture titled, “Single Parent” by Gabriel Kamrowski. The artist was an acquaintance of famous artist Jackson Pollock. -Bay Window photo.