As Winston Kennedy talks about his vision as curator of the Arthur Rose Museum at Claflin University in Orangeburg, he points to the paintings on the walls and says he imagines the day when the works on display will do more than provide a vital complement to student coursework.
“I see the transformation of a community through the visual arts,” Kennedy said, adding that he envisions the museum reaching well beyond its historic walls and, eventually down to Charleston, where the university traces its origins.
“We hope to offer art residences in the summer and exhibitions in Charleston and here,” he said, seemingly in keeping with the University’s motto, “The World Needs Visionaries.”
Exhibitions of work by students and alumni, and regional, national and international artists, will not only enhance classroom instruction, he said. They also will provide cultural experiences for residents of Orangeburg, which has few venues for the presentation of the visual arts.
Newly acquired structures on Boulevard near the campus will soon be converted into studios, workshops and galleries for students and visiting artists, Kennedy said, and provide a “gateway” into the city’s visual arts experience.
Kennedy became head of Claflin’s art department and museum curator in 2010, at a time when student enrollment was down and interest in the visual arts had waned. A concerted effort by Kennedy, former chair of the art department at Howard University in Washington, D.C., and Claflin administrators is breathing new life into the program. Kennedy expects to more than double the current number of art majors within four years.
Last fall’s mixed-media showcase, Frank Smith: Visualizing Jazz, is the kind of exhibition Kennedy said he hoped would soon become routine at the museum. “We will have a schedule that is regular and focused,” he said.
The museum, which dates back to 1898, was restored and renovated between 2003-2005. It was then named for Rose, who often is called the dean of African-American artists in South Carolina. Rose revitalized the art department in the 1950s and was head of the department for nearly 40 years. He taught art to generations, including me, when I was a child growing up in Orangeburg.
“Mr. Rose created an atmosphere in his studio/classroom that reminded one of the movement of the winds and waves that he had experienced as a child in Charleston: the reassuring notion that natural activity was always occurring,” former art department chairman Herman Keith wrote in the program for the museum’s dedication. “He created an environment of freedom where he enjoyed his profession, nurturing his students from where he found them.”
If you’re going:
The Arthur Rose Museum is located on the campus of Claflin University in Orangeburg, 400 Magnolia St. The museum is open Monday to Friday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Because of limited on-campus parking, guests are encouraged to call ahead and make an appointment for a tour of the museum, (803) 535-5324.