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President’s Corner: Art exhibits that tell a vital story

There's more reason than ever to visit our campus these days. We have four compelling art exhibits that will both entertain and educate viewers.

Not only do these exhibits establish Old Dominion University as an arts destination in Hampton Roads. They also embody the values at the core of our institution, from our commitment to diversity to an appreciation of history.

On the second floor of the Goode Theatre lobby, on 46th Street and Monarch Way, we are displaying more than two dozen works by artist Ted Ellis portraying 400 years of the African-American experience.

This exhibit offers a powerful American history lesson. One of Ellis' paintings was officially unveiled in January during a panel discussion commemorating the birthday of Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. It pictures the gravesite in Hampton of the Tucker family, including William Tucker, who is believed to be the first African-American born in the colonies.

Other people and events portrayed in Ellis' art include Dr. King, Rosa Parks and the Selma civil rights march. He also brings to life lesser-known historical figures, such as Mary Peake, who started a school for the children of former slaves near Fort Monroe in 1861, and Sgt. William Carney, a Civil War soldier who was the first African-American recipient of the Medal of Honor.

The exhibit can be viewed noon to 4 p.m. weekdays through March 1.

Just a few blocks away, the Barry Art Museum recently opened its first new exhibition, a collection of 30 works of the pioneering New York abstract painter Joan Thorne. Her paintings, which have been displayed around the world, are big, bright and bold. The New York Times has said Thorne's works "convey an infection joy" and are "optically captivating."

The Thorne exhibit will run through May 10. The museum is open Tuesday through Sunday, and admission and parking are free.

Finally, the Baron and Ellin Gordon Art Galleries on Monarch Way feature an exhibit that highlights what's best about ODU: our people. "Eye to Eye: ODU Portraits by Glen McClure" presents 60 large framed photographs and 70 smaller portraits of people from the Old Dominion community: students, alumni, faculty and staff members, and administrators.

Taken as a whole, these portraits spotlight Old Dominion's rich diversity in terms of students' academic pursuits, accomplishments, even their style of dress and hair color. The Gordon Galleries also feature another exhibit of vibrant paintings and sculptures by Lorraine Fink, an alumna in her 90s. The Fink exhibit runs through Feb. 23 and McClure's photos through May 17. The Galleries are open Tuesday through Sunday.

These exhibits are conveniently located within four blocks of one another, on the east side of campus. I encourage you to see them for yourselves. And while you're here, cross Hampton Boulevard to experience the energy flourishing on the rest of our campus.

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