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CSU to create Bo Bartlett Center

Columbus-born artist Bo Bartlett will donate his archives -- paintings, drawings, sketchbooks and journals -- to Columbus State University to create The Bo Bartlett Center, an 18,425-square-foot gallery that will utilize the entire second floor of CSU's Corn Center for Visual Arts on Front Avenue.

"It's a good thing to bring it home," Bartlett said.

He has a home in Columbus, but also spends time at his studios in Seattle and Maine.

Bartlett's sister, Sandy Scarborough, and her husband, Otis Scarborough, have donated their collection of 14 monumental paintings to the center. Combined with Bartlett's archives, the value of these gifts has been appraised at more than $10 million.

"We're very excited about the opportunity to celebrate a Columbus artist with a world-class reputation," said CSU president Tim Mescon. "We feel this is going to be an important part of the spectrum of the arts. We're just very excited about what this means in terms of expanding our facilities as well. This is a great partnership and great alliance."

Initial gifts from Shannon Illges Candler, Otis and Sandy Scarborough, Jimmy and Ruth Yancey and the Norman and Emmy Lou Illges Foundation will be used to hire an executive director and architect and are expected to pay for the center's operating costs for 18 months, said Richard Baxter, the dean of CSU's college of the arts.

An additional $8 million will have to be raised for construction costs and to establish an endowment fund to digitize Bartlett's materials, said Baxter.

In choosing CSU to house his art, Bartlett said that he wanted to have his work showcased in a place that offered educational options for young artists.

The center will offer art students "an opportunity to see the whole process" of painting, Bartlett said. He has kept almost every scrap of paper on which he wrote down his inspirations for his paintings, so students will be able to see how a painting goes from an idea to a finished work of art.

He and his wife, Betsy Eby, also an artist, plan to spend about five months of each year in Columbus, from early December through the end of April.

"I'm very thrilled," Bartlett said. "It's going to be a national presence."

Baxter said he thinks the Bartlett Center will do for the art department what the RiverCenter for the Performing Arts has done for the Schwob School of Music.

"There is an active art community here," Bartlett said. "This is really an opportunity for the community to step up and add to the renaissance that's been happening."

Bartlett said the center will have rotating exhibits and host master classes for students and people in the community.

Several artists including Vincent Desiderio, Odd Nerdrum and Nelson Shanks have agreed to conduct master classes.

CSU officials and Bartlett will discuss the project in further detail on Thursday with local arts supporters.

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