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Artwork by Edward Grady, who has been a professor at Langston University since 1989.

The Langston Retrospective by Callie Campbell

The Melton Art Reference Library is currently sponsoring an exhibition called the Langston Retrospective. The pieces showcased cover a large span of Oklahoma history and many styles of fine art, they come from artists both past and present and are exhibited to strike a chord of artistic significance in the state of Oklahoma. The Langston Retrospective is a traveling art show composed of an eclectic mix of styles, mediums and eras. The show, which is made up of artwork from the now defunct art program at Langston University in Langston, OK, exhibits the craftsmanship of faculty and students from 1930 to present, according to the show’s curator, Amena Butler of the Melton Art Reference Library. The artwork varies in skill level from mediocre to unbelievable and the subject matter for the pieces was across the board interesting. The most appealing part of the show is the historical value that comes from viewing the pieces. According to the Langston University website, the university started out as a land grant institution for African-American students in 1897. Langston University also claims it is the only historically black college in the state of Oklahoma and the westernmost historically black college in the country. The show presents the cultural history and emotions of bygone eras and present times in Oklahoma, the nation and abroad. The Melton Art Reference Library, along with several former students and faculty, is interested in re-opening the art program at Langston University. “We want this show to prove that the art program at Langston had value and that a lot of people want to see it reopened,” said Butler. Butler said that there are faculty members who are already interested in teaching art at Langston should the program re-


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open, including Edward Grady and John Anderson. The Melton Art Reference Library is hoping to raise awareness of the artistic talent that Langston produced and get the attention of Dr. JoAnn Haysbert, the current president of Langston University, to convince her that the art program was culturally and historically important to not only Langston, but Oklahoma. Racial tensions, the Great Depression, and oil booms have made the history of Oklahoma deep and fascinating. The emotional landscape of this state produces both tortured and triumphant art in the Langston Retrospective. Some of the artists featured have distinct styles and emotional work, while others produced pieces that are technically skilled, but lack emotion. All of the artists managed to produce a sense of the times they were creating in and captured a moment in their lives. Eugene Brown, one of the featured artists and a teacher at Langston, started the art program in 1929, according to Butler. Eddie Jack Jordan is another prominent Langston Alum who became historically important in New Orleans, according to Butler. The Melton Art Reference Library was unable to obtain original pieces of Jordan’s work to include in the show, but they did photograph his pieces for the show. The show also features Wallace Owens and John Anderson, whose eye-catching pieces are the first thing you see when you walk into the exhibit. A particularly strong artist for the exhibit was Edward Grady, who currently teaches at Langston University as an art education professor and used to teach in the art program before it was closed down. Grady’s vibrantly colored paintings bring forth an original style and

Art Focus Oklahoma, September/October 2010  

2010 September/October Art Focus Oklahoma is a bimonthly publication of the Oklahoma Visual Arts Coalition dedicated to stimulating insight...

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