Ga. museum becomes sanctuary for Western art

Published 11:44 pm Monday, September 1, 2008

The elegant museum in Cartersville’s modest downtown has become a surprising sanctuary for Western art collectors.

The Booth Western Art Museum has fast become a welcome home for art collections around the South, and it’s celebrating its fifth anniversary with one of its most ambitious exhibits yet.

Executive director Seth Hopkins said the idea is to show seldom seen Western art from around the South, and he’s pieced together a display of 37 pieces of Western art from 74 private collectors, museums and galleries around the region.

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His display, “Western American Art South of the Sweet Tea Line II,” is among several West art collections based at the museum, founded by an anonymous family who built the museum to share the unique art.

“Wouldn’t it be cool to collect a lot of Western things together and show the public that there are a lot of people in the South who are interested in Western art and collect it?” said Hopkins, summing up the idea behind the collection.

The 35,000 square foot exhibition spans 150 years of history and a stylistic range of art.

In one display, two neon-color cowboys sit on blue and red horses outlined in pink, before a backdrop of purple mountains. In another, a black and gray solemn Native American stares into the horizon. Bronze men are frozen mid-air during a Cherokee ball game.

“It is always a struggle to convince people that is it worth the drive to come see this place,” said Hopkins. “But this kind of show, I think, is the one that nobody can come and be disappointed.”

He calls the “Sweet Tea” exhibit the most ambitious show presented in the Cartersville, Ga. museum in the five years it has been open.

The first edition of the collection, held in 2005, displayed art mostly from Georgia collectors and museums. This year’s collection includes renderings from Russian, German and Canadian artists.

The exhibit also happens to be a nice mixer for Western art collectors in the South.

Bill Brogdon, 66, said he had no idea two other collectors lived within a mile of his suburban Atlanta home until Hopkins organized an art tour of the three collections.

“It is a little bit unusual in this part of the country to collect Western art,” Brogdon said.

Now Brogdon’s Earl Biss oil painting joins the other vivid landscapes on display for “Sweet Tea” until Nov. 30.

About 40,000 people view the museum’s art work annually, but marketing director Kathy Lyles said she hopes a new gallery will bring more visitors to see the art — and kindles greater friendships among collectors and artists.

“We have wonderful relationships with the artists in our museum and the collectors,” Lyles said. “And plenty more to come.”

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