Kindling an Enthusiasm for the Arts

in january, westmont inaugurated the r. anthony askew chair in art and joyfully installed judy l. larson as the first recipient

Participants in the installation ceremony: Walter Hansen (left), Judy L. Larson (second from left), Tony Askew and Amalia Amaki.

Participants in the installation ceremony: Walter Hansen (left), Judy L. Larson (second from left), Tony Askew and Amalia Amaki.

At the inauguration of an endowed chair named for him, Tony Askew put the focus on others: Judy L. Larson, the first recipient, and the generous donors who created it. Principal contributors include Stephen and Denise Adams, Walter and Darlene Hansen, Parker and Carolina Montgomery and Harold and Annette Simmons. “Within the Christian liberal arts the visual arts have long been celebrated,” said Askew, an art professor at Westmont from 1982-2008.

Larson succeeds Askew as director of Reynolds Gallery and also teaches art history and museum studies. Most recently the director of the National Museum of Women in the Arts in Washington, D.C., she brings a wealth of experience in museum management, particularly in connecting exhibitions to the community and building permanent collections.

Trustee Walter Hansen offered a charge at the installation. “Tony welcomed us into the world of art,” he said, and he challenged Larson to continue the tradition of hospitality through exceptional and diverse exhibitions that serve not only students and faculty, but local artists and the broader community. Amalia Amaki, an artist, curator and professor at the University of Alabama, gave a homily.

The celebration continued with a panel discussion by art professionals, “The Meaning and Values of Museums in the 21st Century.” Moderator Mary Case, the founding director of Qm², a consulting company for museum leaders, said one key to the future in such an uncertain time for museums is collaboration. Other panelists echoed this idea, giving insight from their own fields. Panelists included Dane Goodman, a local artist and director of the Atkinson Gallery at Santa Barbara City College, noted international museum architect Randall Stout and Amaki.

Larson delivered a lecture, “The Adams Center for the Visual Arts: Transforming Communities Through Art,” that described her vision. “Our mission is to present art that helps open our eyes and develops intellectual capacity, critical thinking skills, and avenues for self-discovery,” she said. “A college art museum can create the spark that kindles a lifetime of enthusiasm for the arts.”

Judy L. Larson receives an honorary metal from board of trustees chair, Steve Stong and President Gayle Beebe

Westmont Board of Trustees Chairman Steve Stong (left) and President Gayle D. Beebe install Larson.

Art Is a Fire

by Paul Willis, Professor of English

Art is a fire, for it burns the heart;
it is a phoenix from the ashes rising.
Oh, do not think it can be felt in part,
a cheerful blaze upon the hearth, apprising
the viewer of some sweet domestic charm.
It is a conflagration on a slope
that sweeps like silent tidal waves, whose harm
we face without a single, embered hope
that we will ever be one whit the same.

Kinkade, you are a liar. We will go
where darkness visible makes Milton’s flame,
where David’s heat makes Michelangelo
to know the shape of shoulder in the stone.

Art is a pillar of the finest fire;
It leads us into exile, all alone,
where we must sacrifice upon the pyre
our smoldering flesh, the scorched and sooted bone.

Or if it lead us to a desert home,
it leads us where we do not wish to stray,
where broken statues lie inside the poem
and lone and level sands stretch far away.

Art is a fire, for it burns the heart;
it is a phoenix from the ashes rising.
Oh, do not say it purifies in part;
we are consumed without our realizing
art is a fire, for it burns the heart.

Written for the installation of Judy L. Larson as the first recipient of the R. Anthony Askew Chair in Art, Westmont College, Jan. 23, 2009.

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