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Castellani Art Museum unveils 'Colors Sing to Me: The Life and Art of Polly King'


Mon, May 20th 2024 12:50 pm

Homecoming tribute to a beloved artist

Castellani Art Museum Press Release

The Castellani Art Museum, in collaboration with the Niagara Falls National Heritage Area, is honored to present “Colors Sing to Me: The Life and Art of Polly King.” This exhibition, which spans May 22 to Sept. 1, stands as a poignant homage and homecoming for an artist deeply intertwined with the heart and history of Niagara Falls. 

The public is warmly invited to the opening reception on June 6, from 5:30-8 p.m. at the Castellani Art Museum. This special event marks the beginning of an extraordinary showcase of King's work, offering a chance to experience her legacy and influence firsthand. 

From the roaring ’20s (1925) to the early ’90s (1993), artist Polly King watched Niagara Falls undergo a remarkable metamorphosis. She saw it evolve from an industrial powerhouse to the famous "Honeymoon Capital," and finally, to a city grappling with the challenges of a bygone industrial era, often referred to as the "Rust Belt." King's art captured these pivotal moments, from the monumental construction of the Niagara Power Project to the bustling heart of Main Street, all while never losing sight of the awe-inspiring natural wonder: Niagara Falls.

“I am happy to have the opportunity to share some of our family’s favorite paintings with the broader public,” said Don King, son of Polly King. “We hope this sparks interest and that more Niagarans and visitors enjoy these works. I would like to thank the Niagara Falls National Heritage Area and the Castellani Art Museum for their efforts to share this work. Enjoy the Pollyverse!”

Sara Capen, executive director of the Niagara Falls National Heritage Area, said, "Polly King was a prolific and brilliant artist whose work reflected a lifelong dedication to capturing the people and places that surrounded her in travel and at home in Niagara Falls. Through her art and words, she captured the spirit of human creativity and potential, serving as inspiration in her words ‘Art to Enjoy’ to every life she touched. By capturing nearly seven decades of people and the landscape of Niagara Falls, she built a sense of place riveted by water and industry unlike any other artist in Western New York. To experience her work is a celebration of the very meaning of being human. The NFNHA is proud to champion Polly King and ensure that her legacy is forever remembered." 

Castellani Art Museum Director Ellen Owens said, “Polly King deserves widespread and overdue recognition. King was working at a time when women artists did not receive their dues, yet she tirelessly worked through multiple decades. Her passion for art and the landscape and people of this region could not be contained. We are more than thrilled to host this retrospective at CAM.”

Featuring a vast array of King's work, the exhibition reveals her mastery across multiple mediums and styles. From impressionistic landscapes and vivid still lifes to abstract expressions, it showcases how King's art evolved with and was inspired by the changing face of Niagara Falls. In this exhibition, viewers can see the influences of the modern masters and how they inspired the creation of King’s signature style, and her continual evolution and change throughout her career. King painted the world around her, from scenes of her life in Niagara Falls, to the people she knew and saw, to still lifes of her home, and to vistas from the exotic locales she visited. This retrospective offers a glimpse into the many subjects and styles that King explored throughout her career, as her insatiable curiosity and delight in artistic exploration drove her to create works of all styles and types.

In addition to the exhibition opening, our Western New York community is invited to engage with the vibrant world of Polly King through a series of educational and inspiring programs at CAM. Explore King’s artistic legacy on June 13, from 6-7 p.m., to discover her influences, adaptation of modern art styles, and her role as a pioneering woman in the art world. Budding artists can join the summer “Art Express” program, “Polly’s Art School: Drawing 101,” on July 27 from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., where children will learn drawing basics inspired by King's techniques. Furthermore, at the Niagara Falls Underground Railroad Heritage Center, don't miss “Polly’s Colorful Plein Air Painting Workshop” on Aug. 24 from 1-4: p.m. This workshop welcomes participants of all skill levels to capture nature's essence using King's inspiring methods. These programs provide a unique opportunity for both novice and experienced artists to celebrate the legacy of a remarkable artist through meaningful engagement with art.

This exhibition and its programs are sponsored by the Niagara Falls National Heritage Area in partnership with the Castellani Art Museum and Don and Betty King Family. It is also made possible through the New York State Council on the Arts with the support of the Office of the Governor and the New York State Legislature. 

Guests are invited to visit the neighboring exhibit, “Daredevils of Niagara Falls: The Spectacle of Triumph and Tragedy.” The exhibition features an original watercolor illustration by King, which was initially crafted for informational pamphlets at the former Niagara Falls Museum. It will illuminate the prolific and imaginative work of this celebrated local artist, as well as connect the two shows on view at CAM, showcasing King’s significant contributions to the artistic landscape of the region throughout her life.

About Pauline Virginia Kirtz King (1901-93)

Born in Wheeling, West Virginia, in 1901, King was a prolific artist and sculptor. She was educated at Carnegie Tech, the National Academy of Design, Cooper Union School of Art, the Arts Student League, and the Albright Art School. Throughout her life, King explored and excelled at a broad range of artistic styles, from impressionism, including landscapes and still lifes, to portraiture and abstract works. She utilized an array of artistic mediums such as watercolor, oils, charcoal, and mixed media. 

More on the Niagara Falls National Heritage Area

The Niagara Falls National Heritage Area is one of 62 National Heritage Areas in the U.S. Designated by Congress in 2008, its mission is to preserve, protect and promote the historic, natural and cultural resources of the area stretching from Niagara Falls to Old Fort Niagara in Youngstown. The Niagara Falls National Heritage Area facilitates partnerships between artists, public and private organizations, and community members and stakeholders to envision and create public art, impacting the cultural landscape with pieces that reflect and honor the history and legacy of Niagara Falls. To date, the Niagara Falls National Heritage Area has facilitated over 40 public art projects in Niagara Falls. Learn more at discoverniagara.org.

Castellani Art Museum

With learning and public access at the heart of its mission, CAM is the premiere resource for the visual arts in Niagara County. The museum’s permanent collection includes over 5,000 pieces of modern and contemporary art, Niagara Falls art, and regional folk arts. CAM is committed to the preservation of these artworks, along with offering exhibitions and programs that serve the campus, local communities, and tourists.

For more information on the CAM, visit www.castellaniartmuseum.org, and follow CAM’s Facebook page, X (formerly Twitter) (@CAM_of_NU) and Instagram (@CastellaniArtMuseum).

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