LaGrange Art Museum opens new exhibit: Our County Collects

LaGrange Art Museum presents the new exhibition Our County Collects starting Friday and running until Aug. 15, showcasing Troup County residents’ passionate pursuit of every imaginable kind of object.

The exhibit will feature trinkets from wind-up toys, political buttons, antique cameras, coins, bells, farm tools, bottles and pottery to a host of other artifacts and memorabilia. With almost 30 area collectors sharing their treasures, Our County Collects is a salute to the long and diverse tradition of collecting that built the LaGrange Art Museum more than 50 years ago. The exhibit is sponsored by CB&T Bank and in partnership with the Berkshire Museum.

An opening reception is set for 7 p.m. Friday.

Our County Collects is curated by guest curator and independent museum professional Lanora Pierce Yates, working closely with Lauren McClung, LaGrange Art Museum’s new events and exhibits coordinator, and Executive Director Karen Anne Briggs. An advisory committee of community members participated in the identification of collections and collectors.

The inspiration for Our County Collects came from the Berkshire Museum, located in downtown Pittsfield, Massachusetts. Briggs saw Berkshire Collects when she visited Stockbridge, Massachusetts, while working on the 2014 Norman Rockwell exhibit. After viewing the show, Briggs asked the Berkshire Museum for loan of the assembly and wall text and for advice on mounting a similar show in Troup County.

In association with the Smithsonian since 2013, Berkshire Museum is part of a select group of museums, cultural, educational and arts organizations that share the Smithsonian’s resources with the nation.

Our County Collects celebrates both the collections and the collectors by exploring the motivation behind their passions, and by including a number of interactive activities in the galleries.

“People create collections for reasons as varied as the collections themselves,” said Maria Mingalone, Berkshire’s director of interpretation. “Some collectors seek out beauty, others childhood memories, and others cherish the rare and unusual. Travel souvenirs might engender a collection, or the pursuit of a sport or a hobby might be the incentive.”

The collection includes a variety from vintage gas station signs to foreign bronze gods. Objects from popular culture include Sci-fi artistry, Chanel memorabilia and political campaign buttons. Other items include keys salvaged from railroad cars, vesta boxes used by Victorian-era men for storing matches in vest pockets, and wheat pennies – the iconic early 21st century American coin that was minted from 1909 to 1956.

One unusual collection is a menu collection which dates back to just after the French Revolution, when menus were handwritten. The collection was handed down and continued for four generations.

One collector continues the tradition of collecting Desert Rose pottery, hand-painted by her grandmother who worked for years in the Franciscanware southern California factory. Another collector traces the history of his family and its links to the Salvation Army.

Other collections that will be represented include duck decoys, Zuni fetishes, antique gardening books, Sunbeam kitchen appliances, yellow-handled pocket knives, model trains, bells and Boy Scout memorabilia. Even the children have gotten involved, and the Children’s Gallery will showcase pint-sized collections of cicada shells, animal bones, toy trucks and ballerinas.

“Our County Collects is the second exhibit to open this year,” said Bobby Cammon, LaGrange Art Museum’s board president. “It is particularly appropriate for this year, as this is a community-sourced exhibition that celebrates connections, collecting and sharing.

“As we celebrate the opening of the Museum’s new Center for Creative Learning here on our campus, we are proud of the fact that the collectors featured are our neighbors and friends, making this exhibition uniquely a Troup County experience. The high level of community participation is a hallmark of the LaGrange Art Museum.”

Visitors to Our County Collects will not only see fabulous objects, but gain insight into the obsessions of the collectors in their own words.

Collectors include Ethyl Ault, Jim Biagi, Noah and Ethan Black, Karen Anne Briggs, Sim Blitch, Bobby Cammon, Chris Cleaveland, Randall and Diana Cotton, Doug Cox, Dawn Douglas, Cindy Fulks, Milton Edelson, Annie Greene, Tolan Headrick, Lennon Headrick, Ralph and Nita Howard, Richard Ledyard, Betty Lester, George Nader, Bill Nixon, Joe Phillips, Jocie Scott, Bill Stanckiewicz, Patrick and Jackie Terrail, John Tures, Carelton Wood, and Al and Ginger Zachry among others.

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