By Elizabeth Van Pilsum, Arts and Culture Editor
On Sep. 7, the Verostko Center of the Arts opened an exhibition on Impressionism and the following modernist styles. This exhibition is called Impressionist Legacies: The Michael and Aimee Rusinko Kakos Collection. The exhibition includes 88 donated works and will be open to the public until Nov. 17.
The paintings were donated by Michael and Aimee Rusinko Kakos, long-term supporters of the arts, from their personal collection. Alongside the collection, the couple provided a one-million-dollar endowment to support conservation and interpretation. They chose to donate to Saint Vincent College (SVC) for many reasons, one being that the art displayed in the Verostko Center provides accessible enrichment to the lives of students and others in the area.
“The college’s possession of these works affords classes and researchers easy access to this pivotal period in art,” said Andrew Julo, director of the Verostko Center of the Arts.
These paintings expand the college’s collection of art to include impressionism and the beginnings of early European modernism. Themes included in the art vary greatly, including agrarian idylls, the everyday impact of modernization, and visions of the world post World War II. The artists in the collection are widely known in their own communities but less recognizable to people outside those groups. Julo explained that the frequent omission of these painters from the art historical surveys could have happened for many reasons.
“Some [of the artists] experienced critical acclaim during their lifetimes, while others struggled to make ends meet,” said Julo. “Many women artists were discouraged from becoming artists and did not receive the same critical analysis afforded to their male counterparts. Jewish artists in the collection faced antisemitic resistance to their work. The history of art is constantly being reconsidered to include a more robust picture of previous creative output.”
Aside from the Carnegie Museum of Art, SVC is the only institution in southwest Pennsylvania that has obtained this large amount of art from this specific time period. The process of assembling the exhibition took years.
“Identifying scholarship on the works included in the Rusinko Kakos Collection started in earnest in 2021,” said Julo. “Select paintings were taken to a conservator while others were reframed. Artwork previously installed at the Verostko Center was all deinstalled.”
To prepare for the exhibition’s opening, the walls had to be repainted. Additionally, labels, promotional materials, and wall vinyls had to be designed, printed, and arranged. Julo credited the Center’s work study students, Catherine Van Haute, sophomore studio art and theology double major and Sophie Daugherty, junior art education major, for aiding this process.
“This exhibition proved to be an exciting challenge for us,” said Julo. “I hope our visitors will get a sense of the goals of these artists when they took their canvases outside and recorded the changing world around them.”