Looking Beyond Coal in West Virginia

by Duane Nichols on April 8, 2016

"To Make Dream Homes Come True" Rockwell Kent (1945) Bituminous Coal Institute

Business Leaders Urge West Virginia to Look Beyond Coal

From an Article by Andrew Brown, Charleston Gazette Mail, April 7, 2016

Brad Smith, a Marshall University graduate and the CEO of Intuit, spoke at the Techconnect West Virginia event Wednesday. The Kenova native expressed the need for the state to invest in education, infrastructure and local entrepreneurs if the state is going to diversify its economy.

State leaders and some big names from outside West Virginia had a frank conversation Wednesday as they discussed what the state needs in order to diversify its economy, attract growing industries and foster small businesses in the Mountain State.

The speakers at the event, which was sponsored by Techconnect West Virginia and held at the Bridge Valley Community & Technical College in South Charleston, included gubernatorial candidate Bill Cole, Commerce Secretary Keith Burdette, leaders from West Virginia University and Marshall University and the CEOs of major information technology companies.

There was one basic message throughout the entire event: West Virginia needs to make public and private investments in order to be successful in moving forward.

“I know we have challenges. I know there are struggles. I know there is a transition underway,” said Brad Smith, the CEO of Intuit. “But for us to get there, we are going to have to embrace change. We are going to have to lean into the unknown.”

Smith, a native of Kenova, is a Marshall University graduate and CEO of a major company that manages financial software like Turbo Tax. On Wednesday, the successful business executive told the crowd that there were three things West Virginia needs: investment in education, modern infrastructure and local entrepreneurs.

Even Cole, whose party has led the campaign against President Barack Obama’s regulations on carbon emissions, suggested that it was time for West Virginia to seriously look for other business opportunities.

The legislative and political debate in the state has continued to center around somehow resurrecting coal markets that most economists believe will never return to full strength, especially in southern West Virginia where seams of coal have been mined for more than 100 years.

In contrast, all of the panel discussions Wednesday remained focused on finding a path forward by building the workforce and infrastructure needed to attract and grow businesses that are expected to expand in the coming decades, namely technology companies.

See also: www.FrackCheckWV.net

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Art Museum April 8, 2016 at 10:12 pm

Commentary on Rockwell Kent’s art work

From the WVU Art Museum, December 7, 2015

In the 1940s, the Bituminous Coal Institute commissioned one of America’s best-known 20th century realists, Rockwell Kent, to create a series of paintings for advertisements demonstrating the promise of coal as the energy source for post-war America.

The Art Museum of WVU currently holds one of the paintings in Kent’s series—titled “To Make Dream Homes Come True.” The work is now on view at the museum as part of its opening exhibition and was the subject of “Art Up Close!”

Art historian Eric Schruers presented “Rockwell Kent’s Lost Bituminous Coal Series Rediscovered,” in the Museum Education Center Grand Hall. The presentation was followed by a question-and-answer session and light refreshments. Those attending viewed the painting in the upper gallery of the museum.

According to Schruers, Kent’s “To Make Dreams Home Come True” is part of one of the artist’s most bizarre and least-known series of works.

“Although the Bituminous Coal Series represented the dynamic interplay of art, industry, politics and society in Postwar America, it was disavowed by Kent and the paintings were relegated to store rooms and basements by the institutions to which the works were later presented,” he said.

“Long forgotten and still partially lost, the series has now been brought back into the light. The paintings are unique in conception, unusual in subject matter, and deserving of attention.”

As a young artist, Rockwell Kent (1882-1971) studied with William Merritt Chase. In addition to his paintings, he was well known as an author and illustrator, and as an advocate for progressive politics. He began his career as an illustrator in 1915 with the acceptance and publication of his drawings in magazines such as Vanity Fair and Puck.

At the time, he had not yet found success as a painter. To make ends meet he turned to advertising and soon found work drawing automobile ads for Rolls Royce. By the end of the 1920s, his illustrations were used to sell everything from perfume and jewelry to Steinway pianos.

By the 1940s, Kent was a prominent American realist painter and the Bituminous Coal Industry was one of several organizations that turned to the fine arts for promotional purposes after the war.

According to Schruers, Kent’s commission was for more than illustrations, since he was to produce 12 large oil paintings—in essence a mini-collection of industrial art—devoted to the glorification of the coal industry and the contributions it made to modern civilization.

Each painting in the series depicts a scene showing the benefits derived from coal. Superimposed over each scene is a figure resembling an ancient Greek God, holding a lump of bituminous coal that glows with a whitish light.

“To Make Dream Homes Come True,” created in 1945, was number six in the series and promoted coal for home heating, appearing in magazines such as The Saturday Evening Post. In this painting, the God-like figure beams over the blueprint of a planned American suburb in the years just following World War II. The chunk of coal in the figure’s right hand illuminates the houses being positioned in the expanding development.

Schruers has been key to bringing Kent’s Bituminous Coal Series to public attention. He currently serves as temporary assistant professor of art history at Fairmont State University and also as instructor of art history and gallery director of the Martha Gault Art Gallery at Slippery Rock University of Pennsylvania.

He has published widely in the area of industrial art, particularly in relation to the coal industry. He is co-author of the book “Wonders of Works and Labor: The Steidle Collection of American Industrial Art” (2009).

Art Up Close! events are held several times each year and present WVU faculty and guest artists from various disciplines discussing a single work of art from the perspectives of their disciplines. Audience members have the opportunity to view the actual works of art at the programs.

Art Up Close! is co-sponsored by the Art Museum of WVU and the Friends of the Museum, a membership group for people who enjoy the arts and social, educational and cultural activities revolving around art.

See also: http://www.FrackCheckWV.net


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