When the Museum of Culpeper History opens again later this month, visitors will be greeted by a new public art exhibit that depicts Culpeper’s storied history.
Morgan Pierce, Executive Director of the Museum of Culpeper History, said that the permanent art project started in the spring of 2018 when he reached out to local artist Trish Crowe.
“I was told you need to go see the paintings in the Culpeper hospital,” Pierce said. “I approached her (Trish) at one of the Firnew Farm Artists Circle shows and brought up this idea to her and she was immediately onboard.”
Pierce said the artwork combines imagery of the artifacts found inside the museum, hopefully providing teasers to what the public can expect when they enter the doors.
Pictured on the three watercolor on paper paintings that measure 41 inches tall by 30 inches wide are images from Culpeper’s bicentennial, dinosaurs, the Love sign, Civil War soldiers, Gayhearts from the 1950s, Eppa Rixey and Pete Hill, Walt Whitman and Clara Barton.
Photographer John Berry, also of the Firnew Farm Artists Circle, took the drone picture of the Blue Ridge mountains near Slate Mills that is the mural background behind the pictures. The drone photo was taken from 400-feet in the air and consists of 14 vertical photos stitched together. Shot in November of 2018, it features Culpeper farm land, the Hughes River and the Blue Ridge Mountains.
Pierce pointed to the three paintings multiple times, each time finding a different aspect to highlight.
“We have a lot of different themes going through here as well,” Pierce said. “Centered on each of the three paintings are the life cycle of a cardinal. It starts with an egg and moves to it’s a cardinal. It takes flight and you’re guided into the museum.”
Several images are blended throughout the three photos - the river flows through both of them, both Culpeper County High School and Eastern View High School’s bands are featured with shadows blending into two paintings and a fox hunt is carried throughout them.
Poet Walt Whitmas is prominently featured on the third painting.
“With his time with the Union Army, he’s quoted as saying ‘Culpeper is picturesque beyond description,’” Pierce said.
Pierce said they started the installation in mid-November and unveiled it Dec. 15. The project is permanent, and is free to all as it’s outside the museum doors.
“If people have five minutes they can walk up here and take a peak at this,” he said. “Hopefully if you didn’t know the museum was here, this will lead you to it.”
Pierce said that Museum employee and youth coordinator Gloria Cooper plans to use images in the paintings for her educational experiences for young children, utilizing it as a image search to point out exciting objects in the museum.
He thanked XPress Copy and Graphics for assisting with the project, Village Frameworks and Gallery for helping frame the paintings and the Town of Culpeper’s Public Works Department for helping with the installation.
As the light dimmed on Culpeper on a late December morning, the images popped from the window of the Depot. “It looks really awesome at night,” Pierce said. “You can read the text through the window, you get a sense of what’s going on.”
The museum will be closed for much of January, but the grand opening party will be held Friday, Jan. 31. Pierce said they are installing several new exhibits - including a look at Culpeper’s greatest basketball player Keith “Mr.” Jennings. There will also be an exhibit about smokehouses - the art of preserving meat - and an exhibit featuring the artwork of Aaron Douglas, one of the foremost African American artists of the 20th Century.