The History of OVAL . . . Promoting the Visual Arts in Henderson & the Tri-state
Ohio Valley Art League (OVAL) was founded in September 1991 to promote the visual arts in Henderson and the Tri-State. One of the first projects OVAL undertook was to add gallery lighting and a hanging system in the historic rotunda of the Henderson County Public Library, now known as the Rotunda Gallery.
With the help of the Raymond B. Preston Foundation, OVAL’s first major project was for the learning disabled at Central Elementary School. Students made clay tiles that were fired and permanently mounted in the lunchroom of Central Elementary School.
Working with children to educate them in the visual arts has been a primary function of OVAL since its beginning. OVAL invited internationally recognized ceramic artist Don Reitz from Arizona to work with sixteen Henderson County High School art students to create a wall mural in honor of W. C. Handy. David Rodenberg, an Evansville artist/potter, assisted him on this project. This clay wall mural depicting Handy’s life is permanently installed in Henderson’s J. F. Kennedy Center.
In 1993, OVAL began bringing Native American artists to share their culture and artwork with Henderson County students. Artists from the following tribes have presented programs in the schools: Athapascan/Lakota, Acoma, Cherokee, Jemez, Mohawk Iroquois Confederacy and Odawa.
OVAL organized the first Kentucky National Wildlife Art Exhibit in 1994 with the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources as the co-sponsor. This biennial exhibit attracts top wildlife artists from across the nation and is now considered one of the top wildlife exhibitions in the nation.
Placing the first Henderson public sculpture, “The Optimist” by Kentucky native Don Gummer, at the entrance of the Henderson Fine Arts Center on September 30, 2001 was the largest project to date by OVAL.
The Optimist” by Don Gummer is made of cast stainless steel with a bronze base. It measures 7 ft. high, 4 ft. deep and 5 ft. in width and is mounted on a six ton Indiana limestone base.“Fear and hate are no match for love and optimism” . . . Don Gummer . . . from speech at dedication and unveiling ceremony.
Don Gummer was born in Louisville, KY, in 1946. Don attended the School of the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston from 1966-70. He graduated with a BFA, MFA from Yale University school Fine Arts, New Haven, 1973. Don resides in Taconic, Connecticut, with his wife, actress Meryl Streep and their four children. Don’s sculptures are in collections worldwide.
Working with the High Sandefur Center for mentally and physically challenged adults, OVAL presents an annual exhibit “The Artist Within: Disabling the Myth”.
OVAL has broadened its audience by forming partnerships with local organizations to present exhibits that bring attention to subjects such as the environment, recycling, wildlife preservation and to the mentally challenged. OVAL continues to find ways to support the community through the visual arts. In 2007, OVAL presented an exhibit using the newly opened Ruby Moon Vineyard and Winery in Henderson County as a backdrop for artworks created by tri-state artists.
As a non-profit organization, OVAL depends upon membership dues and contributions to underwrite these programs. We invite you to support this valuable asset to the community and state with a membership.