An exhibition featuring treasures from the extensive and significant permanent art collection of Springside Chestnut Hill Academy (SCH) opened this week in the school’s Barbara Crawford Gallery.
SCH is home to a thriving community of student artists, a highly accomplished arts faculty and now a fully-cataloged collection of 17 pieces in the school’s extensive holdings, the first chapter of a multi-year initiative to document the entire collection.
Prior to the show, the work — by world-renowned artists, alumni and former faculty — had never been cataloged or displayed together. The show was developed by the school’s recently formed Arts Council whose mission is to “inspire and encourage dialogue amongst our student body and members of both SCH and our surrounding community.”
Two of the many highlights of the exhibition are donations to the school courtesy of CHA alumnus Hank McNeil, Class of 1961: Wall drawings by the widely celebrated Sol LeWitt, one of the leading exponents of conceptual and minimalist art, and “Metamorphosis IV,” a mixed media piece by Tim Rollins and the KOS, whose works can be seen in public collections around the world. Fun fact for this work: The decay of the natural apple within the work is meant to demonstrate Franz Kafka’s “Metamorphosis.” When decay is complete (aka a rotten apple), it gets replaced.
A generous loan from the Woodmere Art Museum of sketches done by Violet Oakley in advance of the final triptych, which hangs in the Henry Library, are also in the show, enabling visitors to see both the preliminary work and the completed masterpiece at one time.
The exhibition has been curated by artist and SCH parent Melissa Haims, whose passion for each piece runs deep. At the opening reception, Haims recalled her journey through the nooks and crannies of each building in the school to aggregate the work for this show, including pieces hiding in plain sight such as a sketch of Albert Einstein that was hanging on a wall in the school’s Rorer Center for Science and Technology.
The charcoal drawing of the scientist, done by Carola Spaeth Hauschka, appeared in a 1936 edition of Fortune magazine and is signed with a dedication — by Einstein himself — “To my friends at Chestnut Hill Academy.” Hauschka’s grandson was a science teacher at CHA in the 1930s, which is how this piece came to the collection.
Perhaps one of the most exciting discoveries made by Haims was a piece by artist and beloved CHA art teacher Barbara Crawford, for whom the school’s art gallery is named. Crawford was married to, and her work influenced by, the abstract expressionist painter Sam Feinstein, who also taught art at CHA in the 1930s. The canvas was found rolled up in a closet in one of the school’s art studios. A dramatic explosion of pure color, the painting took the artist 15 years to complete.
The show includes a fascinating variety of work spanning the 20th century, including many pieces that were donated to the school by alumnae and visiting artists. The school’s Artist in Residence program, funded by the Springside Class of 1957, has been especially fruitful in terms of gifts to the collection, with each visiting artist donating a piece of work.
One of these pieces, a life-size “Springside Scottie,” was done by Leo Sewell in 2005 using toys and found objects brought in by the girls who worked on the project with him during his residency. A close look reveals a Mickey Mouse watch, part of a PA license plate and a spoon, all assembled on site. (Another of Sewell’s works, a 40-foot torch, can be seen at the city’s Please Touch Museum.)
The Crawford Gallery is open during school hours, and the Art Committee has assiduously shared the details of each piece in the didactics that accompany the works. The catalog can also be found at sch.org/arts. The exhibit will continue through April 12. Springside Chestnut Hill Academy’s Barbara Crawford Gallery is located at 500 West Willow Grove Ave. For a docent-led tour of this exhibition, please email email@example.com to schedule.
Article submitted by the public relations department at SCH.