Bluff Park Art Show History
It grew from an idea…evidently one whose time had come! In 1963 a group of parents from Bluff Park Elementary School sponsored a “Come As Your Favorite Book” dance. This fund raising project was the first step in expanding the school library. Henry Kimbrell and his band donated their talents, the community responded, and $600 went into the library fund.
In 1964 most of the same people, under the sponsorship of the Bluff Park PTA, held an art show auction. Artists in the community contributed their paintings and crafts, and $850 was added to the library fund.
In 1965 an independent group, but still composed of most of the same people and still working for the library, formed a non-profit corporation and held a second art show. Sixty-five artists participated in the show, which was held at the Shades Cliff Community Park (Bluff Park Community Center). The response and support of the Birmingham community was overwhelming. From this point on, the Bluff Park Art Show has been an eagerly awaited annual event. The show now attracts over 30,000 people, and artists from all parts of the country are invited to exhibit. The show is held each year on the first Saturday of October and is situated on four acres of beautifully wooded mountain land. A group from a local church holds a bake sale, the Lions Club organization works all night the night before to provide real pit barbecue, and live Jazz music is a standard feature at the show. The Shades Mountain Junior Women’s Club offer a special treat to the younger children in the form of an art learning center. Different crafts are taught to the children while their parents tour the show. Over 100 artists are invited to exhibit and may also enter one work in competition for several different prize categories. Purchase awards from this competition form the major portion of the permanent collection.
The Purchase Awards from the 1965, 1966, and 1967 shows were given to the Bluff Park Elementary School Library. The 1965 award was “Cabin on Sanders Road” by Henry Kimbrell of Birmingham, Alabama. The 1966 award, “August and Sunflowers, was won by Huntsville, Alabama artist Wanda Dashner. The 1967 painting, “Waiting for What?” was the work of Mary Cobb Martin of Huntsville, Alabama.
In 1965 the Art Association voted to keep the purchase awards to form a permanent collection, although the paintings were still to hang in the school library. In 1973 a special purchase award was made to honor Mervyn Sterne, one of the first supporters of the Art Association and the school library. The painting, “Woman with Child,” by Judith Taylor Rogers of Birmingham, Alabama, won this award and it was placed in the collection of the school library. Since that time the permanent collection has grown to near 100 pieces of original art that rotate through the Hoover schools and other area locations which include Bluff Park, Gwin, Shades Mountain, Green Valley, Alabama School of Fine Arts, The University of Montevallo, Epic School and Sterne Library at UAB. The purpose of the Art Association, as stated in the 1966 show brochure, is to promote projects and activities which will further the appreciation of art in the Birmingham Metropolitan area. This purpose has been carried out to an extent that the original members never dreamed. Contributions have been made to many of the art and civic organizations of the city.
The following list of charitable contributions is how an idea from dedicated parents has grown and branched out to reach many peoples lives with the Arts:
• The Bluff Park Annual Invitational Art Show / Over 40 Years of bringing visual artists to the Birmingham area from all over the United States.
• Acquiring and maintaining a Permanent Collection of nearly 100 pieces of two and three-dimensional art. These comprise a rotating display in local schools, libraries and universities.
• Funding Public Sculpture ”Becoming”, by Ted Metz, given to City of Hoover and located at City Hall. ”The Reader”, by Frank Fleming, given to Hoover Library and on display there. ”Gift to Aldridge Gardens: $25,000 to match Civic funds for a bronze sculpture “Along for the Ride” by Frank Fleming.
• Funding Special Events - A four day Japanese Cultural Presentation, including lectures, demonstrations, and performances by Shozo Sato. - Icon, Sign & Symbol, a collaborative work by a group of artists and academics and performed at the Huntsville, Mobile, Montgomery and Birmingham Museums of Art.
• Donations to the Birmingham Museum of Art. In 2001 the Association donated $25,000 to the museum in celebration of its 50th anniversary. These funds enabled the Museum to obtain matching grants toward the purchase of the large-scale work by preeminent American artist Sol LeWitt, titled “Bands of Color in Various Directions” (2001), and was specially created by LeWitt for the Museum’s rear facade.
• In 2003 the Association donated an additional $40,000 to the Museum towards purchase of contemporary art, in celebration of our 40th Anniversary.
• In 2007, the Association donated $15,000 to the Birmingham Museum of Art in support of the “Pompeii, Tales from an Eruption” exhibit.
Sponsorship of Local Associations & the Arts by Contributions to:
– The Alabama Symphony - Public Radio and Television - Space One Eleven - Studio by the Tracks - Boy & Girl Scouts of America - Explorer Scouts - Area high school music programs - School and public libraries - Vulcan Statue Renewal
- Purchase of the 88 volume Groves’ Dictionary of Art for the Hoover Public Library and periodic donations to school libraries.
- Donated $6,000 towards books to be chosen by Hoover Art Teachers
- Hoover High Art donation of $1,000 for a Kiln Portico.
- Brunch honoring Hoover Art Teachers.
- Memorial work of art by Heidi Bowman, in memory of Helen K. Stephens and given to Bluff Park Elementary.
- Gifts to four College Art Programs, totaling $5,000.
- DVD art project for area libraries, colleges and schools. Also for sale at Birmingham Museum of Art gift shop or order here online.
- Partnered with the City of Hoover and several Hoover schools to frame student artwork for the new Hoover Public Safety Center.
- Funding Park Improvements over the years, the Association has helped maintain and improve the Community Center. The latest contribution to the park was the Bandstand/Gazebo.
- $34,500 in College Scholarships since 1999 for graduating Hoover High School seniors planning a career in the arts.
* Additional projects, contributions and scholarships are currently in the planning stages.