Wes Serafine

Equinox Staff


Various forms of art decorate the Keene State College campus—all with their own significant meanings and stories behind them. From the art that dons the walls in the Thorne-Sagendorph Gallery, to the pictures that hang on the Rhodes Hall walls, and even the film posters that are framed in the Media Arts Center, each piece has their own unique story behind it.

Professor of Education David White founded the annual Keene State College Children’s Literature Festival in 1978. Twelve years later he started the KSC Children’s Literature Festival Art Gallery. In order to do so, he contacted several former speakers at the festival to see if they had any art for sale.

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The gallery started when two-time Caldecott Award winner Barbara Cooney contacted White and offered to donate one of her pieces, a piece of scratchboard from a book called “The Little Juggler” to get the gallery started.

From then on, the gallery continued to grow. Today, it lines nearly all of the walls in Rhodes Hall, and includes works from respected children’s illustrators such as Jerry Pinkney and P.J. Lynch. White gave special notice to the cover art of the book “Peepers,” by Eve Bunting, a book written as a result of the author’s experiences at the Children’s Literature Festival, which is here in Keene, he said. Another special part of the gallery is what White calls the “Festival Owl Collection.”

Acquiring and framing the art is a costly process and so, in 1997, White started a project to contact various former festival speakers to create an owl that could be used for Gallery fundraising purposes, he said.

Several of the speakers jumped at the chance to assist with the program and sent their owls either by donating or only charging minimal fees, White said.

In 2009, for the Centennial of Keene State College, White set a goal to acquire 100 of these owls to commemorate the event, a goal which was met, he said. There are now 104 owls in the festival gallery.

During his time teaching children’s literature here at KSC, White has taken several students on tours of the gallery. “They seem pretty amazed,” White said. “I’ve had several say that they’ve come back in awe because they didn’t realize everything that was here.”

During his recent sabbatical this past spring, White trained three retired elementary teachers from the Keene area to act as tour guides for the gallery, he said. However, it’s not just the students who have noticed the artwork that White has collected, staff and faculty members have also recognized the beauty of the artwork.

“I’ve been told by the Admissions Office that when they give tours that this is the favorite building,” White said. “A lot of prospective students remember these books from when they were little kids.”

Today, tours of the gallery are given to everyone from elementary school students to graphic design majors at UNH. According to White, Keene’s children’s literature program is among the top ten in the United States. “I think we have a much stronger educational mission than the others,” he said. “The point is to show the process in which illustrations are created.”

However, Rhodes Hall is not the only building that is home to priceless artwork; the Media Arts Center is home to film posters that each possess a significant meaning.

When the Media Arts Center was first built, Professors of Film Peter Condon and Lawrence Benaquist made the decision to line its hallways with famous movie posters.

The idea behind the posters was to have each poster represent a different aspect of the programs in the building.

The movie “All The President’s Men” represents the Journalism department, while the poster for the film “Ed Wood” represents the Film department, and these two are just some of the countless posters that Condon and Benaquist have acquired over the years.

The Film Department is also incredibly fortunate to have several of the posters autographed. Director Jay Craven, who often screens his films on campus, signed the film poster “Where the River Flows North. “

Actor Martin Landau, who is the great uncle of a former KSC student, graciously agreed to sign the poster “Ed Wood.”

The poster for the film “The Blob” is autographed by the film’s screenwriter, former actress as well as former KSC professor, Kate Phillips.

Most of the posters are originals from the time of the films’ release dates.

“Probably the one that I think we should be most proud of poster wise is the poster for Billy Wilder’s film ‘One Two Three’,” Condon said. “It’s done by a very famous graphic design artist named Saul Bellow.”

Over the years, the hall has added posters like the ones for films such as “La Belle et La Bête” (Beauty and the Beast) and “Chinatown.” “Those were added solely for their beauty,” Condon said. “Those were two of the most beautiful posters ever created.”

The posters were sent by the studios, who had them lying around, for when they were screened by the film society, Condon said. “They had them kicking around? They need to be in a museum!” Condon said. And in many ways that is what the hallway has become.

“A little museum of films from the different decades and different parts of the world, representing different disciplines. They’re done as promotional devices for the movies playing at the theatres, but they’re also art as well,” Condon said.


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