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Arts & Extras: Radford University museum invites art fans to gawk at collection treasures

Arts & Extras: Radford University museum invites art fans to gawk at collection treasures


With the new show “ARTGAWK,” the Radford University Art Museum is flaunting what it’s got.

Drawn from the museum’s collection, “ARTGAWK” features pieces by Pablo Picasso, Andy Warhol, Francisco Goya, Gustave Dore, James Abbott McNeill Whistler and many more internationally acclaimed masters, as well as intriguing works from regional artists.

A prime example of the latter serves as the show’s centerpiece. Radford University class of ’57 graduate Wanda Prillaman, an art teacher and watercolorist, co-founded Piedmont Arts in Martinsville. In the 2000s, she set out to paint a panoramic view of the Radford campus that when completed would have been 99 feet long — but she finished only the first 33-foot panel before her death in 2014.

The panorama, which stands upright and is two-sided, in some instances shows the fronts and backs of buildings, but in other instances a building shown on one side of the painting is represented on the other side by structures that used to stand in that spot but were torn down. As an example, a view of Muse Hall on one side is supplanted by the old Founder’s Hall on the other side.

The curators of “ARTGAWK” aimed to assemble a exhibition “that would showcase the breadth and depth of what we’ve got,” museum director Steve Arbury said. The works span eras from the 17th century to the 21st century, originate from as far away as Australia, India, Vietnam and Japan, and are rendered in styles that encompass realism, impressionism, abstraction, surrealism and more, using approaches that include photography, printmaking, sculpture and painting.

Subtitled “Choice Pickings from the Radford University Permanent Collection,” the name “ARTGAWK” refers to the huge variety on display. “It’s incredibly eclectic,” Arbury said. “We really packed it in. Ordinarily we have 40 to 50 works in an exhibition. This one has double that, 110.”

The show is evolving as the museum adds even more art to its collection. Arbury said that an impending donation of a 9-foot-wide work of Gond art will be put on display when it arrives. The Gond are one of the largest tribal groups in India.

Roanoke-born artist Dorothy Gillespie, who died in 2012 at age 92, started the museum’s permanent collection in 1986 when she arranged a bequest of more than 250 works from the estate of New York gallery owner Betty Parsons. Gillespie’s colorful aluminum sculptures are also part of the show.

“The collection’s grown dramatically since I’ve been here,” said Arbury, who joined the faculty in 1988. “When I first became director” — in 1998 — “it was maybe 600 works. Now we’ve got over 2,000.” A number of the pieces included in “ARTGAWK” have not been exhibited in the museum before.

The piece by Picasso is a lithograph portrait of Jacqueline Roque, his second wife. The Warhol is a silkscreen print depicting Queen Ntombi Twala of Swaziland. The wood engraving by 19th-century French artist Dore illustrates a grim scene from the Bible, Judges 19:27, wherein a man discovers his concubine’s corpse.

The lithograph by Whistler in the collection has been humorously nicknamed “Whistler’s Brother” by the museum staff, a reference to the American artist’s most famous painting, “Arrangement in Gray and Black No. 1,” more popularly known as “Whistler’s Mother.” Radford’s Whistler piece is in fact a portrait of his younger brother William.

International and regional artworks alike are accompanied by extensive notes sharing history and context. “ARTGAWK” will stay on display through April 17.

The museum’s hours are 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Monday-Friday and noon-4 p.m. Saturday. Because of COVID-related social distancing requirements, off-campus visitors must register ahead of time. For more information visit

Virtual film festival

Roanoke College is in the midst of its 3rd Annual International Film Festival, co-sponsored by Roanoke Valley Sister Cities. The college’s department of modern languages organized the festival, which runs through Feb. 26, to promote international cinema and intercultural exchange.

The festival’s theme is “Social Justice and the Oscars.” Though the festival is all-virtual, with showings of each movie offered via Zoom link, the organizers are offering Amazon gift cards as “door prizes” for each screening.

Friday’s screening, of South Korean director Bong Joon-ho’s black comedy about economic and social status, “Parasite,” takes place at 7 p.m. In 2020, “Parasite” became the first non-English language film to win the Academy Award for Best Picture.

The rest of the festival’s schedule is as follows:

  • Saturday, 2 p.m.: “Un Prophète,” French (Oscar nominee for best foreign language film, 2010)
  • Saturday, 7 p.m.: “The White Ribbon,” German (Oscar nominee for best foreign language film, 2010)
  • Wednesday, 7 p.m.: “Shoplifters,” Japanese (Oscar nominee for best foreign language film, 2019)
  • Thursday, 7 p.m.: “Bicycle Thieves,” Italian (Academy Honorary Award winner, 1950)
  • Feb. 26, 7 p.m.: “The Motorcycle Diaries,” Spanish (Oscar winner for best original song, 2005)

For more information and Zoom links, visit

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