Homecoming Art Exhibition – Celebrating Bill Whitney, 1921-1985

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Rainy Night, acrylic, 1981

The University of Olivet is preparing for a very special Homecoming, Sept. 28-30. This year’s celebration not only welcomes alumni home to connect and reconnect, but also marks the start of OC’s 175th anniversary.

Many unique events have been planned to make the week memorable, including the iconic Alumni Awards Celebration, the OC Presidents’ Panel and a block party for all alumni hosted by Soronian, which is celebrating its 150th anniversary.

Registration for all events is open now through Sept. 26. Registration will not be available on Sept. 27, but guests may register for any event on campus Sept. 28 and 29.

Bill Whitney, 1921-1985: A Selection of Paintings and Drawings

In addition to honoring OC’s 175th anniversary, the life of Bill Whitney will be celebrated during a special art exhibition and reception during Homecoming. The exhibit, “Bill Whitney, 1921-1985: A Selection of Paintings and Drawings,” debuts Sept. 27 and will be on display through Oct. 5 in the Kresge Foundation Art Gallery inside the Riethmiller Blackman Art Building. The exhibit reception, a free event that welcomes all, is Sept. 29 from 5 to 7 p.m. in the gallery.

Bill Whitney was a full time art professor at The University of Olivet from 1959 to 1979, teaching courses in painting, drawing, metal craft and art history. During his teaching years, Whitney made a trip in 1968 to Arizona and New Mexico to study the Pueblo Indians. In 1970, with a sabbatical from The University of Olivet, he spent seven months studying, photographing and drawing Renaissance art and architecture in Florence, Italy. A traveling exhibition, plus a book of his drawings, followed that. In 1975, on a trip through England, he photographed cathedrals, and in 1976, he traveled throughout the upper Midwest to photograph fine architecture, both of which he used in his teaching.

Prior to serving The University of Olivet, for nine years Whitney conducted his own art gallery, Whitney Galleries, in Birmingham, Michigan with his wife, Charlotte. Together, they hosted shows displaying their own art, as well as exhibitions for many other artists. In addition, Whitney was in the Pacific during World War II where he created numerous drawings, now in the National Museum of the Pacific War in Fredericksburg, Texas.

Whitney’s education included study at the Corcoran School of Art in Washington, D.C., Wayne State University and the Cranbrook Academy of Art, where he received his bachelor’s in fine arts and master’s in fine arts in painting with a minor in metal craft. Whitney’s paintings, drawings and metal work have been shown throughout the Midwest, and as far as Washington, D.C., New York City, California and Hawaii.

Honor a Lifetime of Work

Beyond viewing Whitney’s incredible works of art, this exhibit is also a celebration of his life for those who had the pleasure of knowing and working with him.

“When the opportunity arose to feature work by Bill Whitney, I immediately agreed,” said Gary Wertheimer, professor of art. “It’s incredible to see a lifetime of work and a lifetime of an artist’s interests displayed at once. For our students, I think it’s valuable to see that people branch out and work in a variety of styles. For the college, it’s special to remember Bill, a professor who had a strong influence on the lives of many, especially during Homecoming – an event that embodies what it means to come together.”

Bill Whitney, Home Music, acrylic, 1981. This painting depicts Charlotte and her daughter from a from 1965 photo.

Charlotte Whitney Stevens, Bill’s widow, has kept the collection of his work and spirit alive in the decades since his passing. This exhibit, she says, is just one way to continue the positive influence Bill had at Olivet and in the art community. She also hopes to share his paintings and drawings with others, placing almost all pieces in the exhibit for sale except for a few of her personal favorites.

“I think Bill was an excellent artist and this will be a wonderful show,” Charlotte said. “The exhibits in the Kresge Foundation Art Gallery are always displayed beautifully and I’m glad to continue bringing publicity to Bill’s work. There will be around 50 drawings and paintings – large and small – from all throughout his career on display. The show covers so much ground. There are a lot of pieces from later in Bill’s life, including many from the sabbatical we took in Florence. I hope sharing Bill’s work will benefit former students and others who are interested in his work.”

Learn more about 2018 Homecoming and OC’s 175th anniversary celebration, and register for events now. Check out the Alumni Awards Celebration Friday, Sept. 28., when Mike Fales ’75, Lou Diaz ’59 and Breanna (Bath) O’Keefe ’08 will be honored for their commitment to The University of Olivet, and Laura Fiorino ’02, Chris Gumper ’96, Vern Hazard ’83,  David Millward ’97 and Kathy (Hughes) Roche-Wallace ’00 will be inducted into the Athletic Hall of Fame.

Contact Samantha Pearl ’00, director of alumni engagement, at 269.749.7644 or alumnirelations@uolivet.edu for questions. For more information about the exhibit, contact Professor Wertheimer at 269.749.7627 or gbwertheimer@uolivet.edu.


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