Mar 3, 2009

University Art Galleries at USD presents Wilber Stilwell retrospective exhibition

VERMILLION, S.D. -- The University Art Galleries at The University of South Dakota presents “Rediscovered Talent: Retrospective Exhibition of the Work of Wilber Stilwell.” The exhibit is scheduled to run from Monday, March 9 through Monday, March 30 in the Main Gallery of the Warren M. Lee Center for the Fine Arts. A reception, free and open to the public, is scheduled for Friday, March 20 from 7 to 9 p.m.
Stilwell, who joined the USD faculty immediately after receiving his master's degree from the University of Iowa in 1941, served on the department of art faculty at The U for 32 years and as department chair for 26 years. The show represents a comprehensive selection of his life's work. "Rediscovered Talent" includes more than 40 paintings, prints and drawings. The show will be accompanied by a full catalogue with essays on the artist's life and his place in American art of the 1930s and 1940s. Plans are being developed to tour the exhibition throughout the Midwest to help bring greater public attention to the special talents of this remarkable artist and to the contribution of New Deal art in general.

Eddie Welch, director of the University Art Galleries, said the Stilwell Retrospective Exhibition was organized to emphasize Stilwell's talent as an artist and to celebrate the 75th anniversary of the beginning of the art programs of the New Deal — a 10-year period when American art became the art of the people.

Prior to entering graduate school, Stilwell studied art at the Kansas City Art Institute for five years and completed a Bachelor of Arts degree in Art Education at Emporia State Teachers College in Kansas. These studies coincided with the golden age of the American Scene or Regionalist art movement, and Stilwell partook deeply of the spirit and character of American art during the Depression Era. While at the Kansas City Art Institute, he worked with Thomas Hart Benton and, at the University of Iowa, he studied in the shadow of Grant Wood and other major Regionalists. For his efforts, Stilwell was recognized with a number of prestigious awards, including the National Gallery of Art Medal for Distinguished Service to Education presented at the White House in 1966.

Stilwell is known to many at USD today mainly as the namesake of the annual Stilwell Student Awards Exhibition, according to Cory Knedler, chair of the USD Department of Art. This exhibition is supported by an endowment established in l987.

A photograph of one of Stilwell’s works, “Circus Workers,” is available for download at (Copyright W.M. Stilwell Family)

The Main Gallery in the Warren M. Lee Center for the Fine Arts is open at no cost to the public from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. weekdays and from 1 to 5 p.m. on weekends. Tours and special showings during non-public hours are available upon request. For more information about this exhibition, please contact the Art Galleries Director Eddie Welch at (605) 677-3177 or e-mail
About The University of South Dakota
Founded in 1862, The University of South Dakota is designated as the only public liberal arts university in the state and is home to a comprehensive College of Arts and Sciences, School of Education, School of Health Sciences, the state's only School of Law, School of Medicine, the accredited Beacom School of Business and the College of Fine Arts. USD has an enrollment of more than 10,000 students taught by more than 400 faculty members. More information is available at

This material is available in an alternate format upon request. Please contact University Relations at 605-677-5759. If you are a person with a disability and need a special accommodation to fully participate in any university activity or event, please contact Disability Services at 605-677-6389 as soon as possible, but no later than 48 hours before the event, so that appropriate arrangements may be made.


Peter Carrels
The University of South Dakota
(605) 216-1233
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