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McDonough remembers deceased YSU art faculty with ‘In Memoriam’

McDonough remembers deceased YSU art faculty with

Michael J. Walusis is one of three deceased artists who taught at Youngstown State University whose work will be shown at the McDonough Museum of Art as part of an "In Memoriam" exhibition, which opens Friday. (Submitted photo)

The McDonough Museum of Art will recognize three former Youngstown State University art faculty members with “In Memoriam,” one of two exhibitions opening Friday.

Claudia Berlinski said the idea for “In Memoriam” came shortly after the death of Youngstown artist and educator Al Bright in 2019.

“After the Butler (Institute of American Art) had its Al Bright memorial service at the museum, we inquired whether they were planning on having an exhibition of his work,” she said. “They said, no, but they had a few pieces they could lend us and thought it would be nice idea.”

Bright was one of the best-known artists to come out of the Mahoning Valley and, as an educator, he influenced generations of other artists. In 1965 the Youngstown native became the first African-American full-service faculty member at YSU, where he earned his bachelor’s degree in art education the year before (he earned a master’s degree in painting from Kent State University in 1965). Bright also was the founding director of YSU’s black studies program and was a three-time recipient of YSU’s Distinguished Professorship Award during his 40-year teaching career.

Bright was known for painting to live music, and one of the pieces on the display was creating during a live painting performance backed by Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers, which featured a 19-year-old Wynton Marsalis on trumpet.

Around the same time, the widow of Michael J. Walusis, who served as chair of YSU’s art department from 1986 until 1991, approached the McDonough about hosting a sale of his prints. Jack Carlton, who taught printmaking at YSU and was the curator and coordinator of Youngstown’s Downtown Murals Project, died in 2018, and the McDonough decided to remember all three artists with “In Memoriam.”

Berlinski said they got the names of several Bright collectors from his family and colleagues and asked if them to loan pieces in their collections.

“They were very happy (to lend the art),” Berlinski said. “Several of them lent pieces in the past for a show at Kent State, a retrospective not to long ago.”

Since Walusis and Carlton primarily worked as printmakers, there are multiple copies of their creations, which made it easier to assemble their exhibits.

“Paula Jasper, Jack’s wife, worked very closely with Jack when it came to cataloging his work,” Berlinski said. “She had a lot of information and a lot of work cataloged already. When it came time to pick out the work, she was very helpful.”

The show originally was planned for last summer, but it was delayed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. With the state loosening its health guidelines, McDonough will have its first in-person opening reception in more than a year from 6 to 8 p.m. Friday. A print sale is planed on the final day from 2 to 4 p.m. July 24.

Also opening Friday is “Anthropology of Motherhood,” an exhibition curated by Fran Flaherty that includes painting, photography, sculpture and video by more than 20 artists exploring the concepts of motherhood, caregiving, parenting, nurturing and maternal labor.

“Some of the them have more of an activist feeling about them, dealing with global issues, and some are more personal responses,” Berlinski said. “The main theme is motherhood, but other themes are interspersed. Even if you’re not a mother, you can respond to what the artists are saying and portraying. And there is a really wide variety of approaches. Visually speaking, anyone who comes in will find it interesting.”

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