Beloit College Magazine

Beloit College Magazine

Fall/Winter 2015 (November 3, 2015 at 8:00 am)

Road Trip with O.V. Shaffer’50


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October 27, 2015 at 11:56 am
By Susan Kasten

Vern Shaffer (2)_BCMF15.jpg

The state of Wisconsin, and especially Beloit and surrounding Rock County, have the good fortune of being home to a concentration of art by O.V. “Verne” Shaffer’50.

In July, a retrospective exhibit and tour focused on the muscular, large-scale sculptures of steel, brass, wood, and cast concrete for which the artist is best known, while bringing together hundreds of smaller pieces loaned from private collections. Exhibits ran simultaneously at four southern Wisconsin galleries, and included a self-guided tour with an interactive map and an overnight road trip that drew visitors to 45 locations across Wisconsin.

The Beloit Fine Arts Incubator, the Wright Museum of Art, the Janesville Art League Gallery, and the Steinhilber Art Gallery at the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh all hosted retrospective shows this summer.

Twenty-five O.V. Shaffer sculptures are located in the city of Beloit alone, seven of which are on the Beloit College campus. All summer long, visitors could be seen on campus pointing their smart phones at the base of Shaffer’s iconic sculptures, which allowed them to watch videos and acquire more information through QR codes.

During one weekend in July, a busload of people joined the artist for a two-day road trip across Wisconsin that made 60 stops in 13 communities to view Shaffer’s work. “The bus trip went really well because I didn’t have to organize any of this,” Shaffer laughed. “I just got on the bus.”

Jerry Sveum, director of the Beloit Fine Arts Incubator, which organized the massive exhibit, told the Janesville (Wis.) Gazette that Shaffer’s popularity became obvious when the call went out for his work held in private collections. “When we had a call for art, people just called in steadily,” he said, adding that more than 200 pieces were on loan for the show.

Shaffer, now based in his hometown of Princeton, Ill., lived in the Beloit area for five decades. During that time, he worked as a prolific artist, taught art at Beloit College, and directed what was then the Wright Art Center.

While the gallery portion of the retrospective has concluded, the interactive maps covering Beloit, Janesville, and the state of Wisconsin will remain available for the next two years for self-guided tours of public art. They can be picked up free of charge at the Beloit College Museums Gift Shop and at the Fine Arts Incubator located in Beloit at 520 E. Grand Ave. An 18-month calendar featuring photos of Shaffer’s work and a hardcover book are also available through the Incubator: www.beloitfineartsincubator.com.

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