For many years Bruce Laumeister and Elizabeth Small, founders of The Bennington, have been collecting art, first in Tucson, Arizona where many winters were spent vacationing, followed by acquisitions made since the opening of the Center in 1994.
The impressive collection of Native American and Southwestern artwork is the product of four decades of serious collecting on the Laumeisters’ part and includes more than three hundred paintings, fifty bronzes, fifty Hopi Kachinas, eighty-five hand-woven Navajo rugs and numerous pieces of Native American pottery, jewelry and baskets. The collection is unique not only because of the size and quality of the artwork but also due to the fact that it includes handicrafts created by Native Americans as well as paintings and bronzes of the indigenous people by non-Natives in a narrative style. This allows patrons to get a more complete sense of the lives and traditions of the people depicted, as Native Americans did not tend to create images of their daily lives but instead crafted beautiful but functional artwork.
Another aspect of the Laumeisters collection is the wildlife art and art of the natural world. The collection includes artists such as Manfred Schatz, Carl Brenders, Bob Kuhn, Richard Schmid, Huihan Liu and Charles Frace to name just a few. Of the impressive exhibitions that have been held in Bennington over the years the couple have become acquainted with many of the country’s best representational artists and have added their work to the collection. Due to the size of the collection only a portion is on view at any one time but the Center does its best to rotate so nothing is stored for an extended period of time.
In 2004 The Bennington was given yet another outstanding collection of art – the bird carvings of Master Carver Floyd Scholz. Drs. Myron and Karin Yanoff were introduced to Bennington and the Laumeisters by Scholz. The couple was interested in finding a home for their thirteen carvings and being impressed by what the Laumeisters were doing for the town and the art community they generously donated the works. The Bennington now has a gallery dedicated to Scholz birds and his carvings capture the birds’ likenesses so successfully that patrons never cease to be in awe of his work.
Scholz had previously taught workshops near his home in central Vermont but The Bennington is very proud to now host his workshops throughout the summer to students that come from around the country to learn from this extremely talented artist. For more information on his workshops, click here.
Another collection that The Bennington offers its patrons is work by Eric Sloane. Sloane’s love of clouds, weather and structures built by settlers give the viewers a look at Americana as through the artist’s eyes – the eyes of a traveler of this country from the 1920’s into the 1980’s. Mr. Laumeister had been fortunate enough to have enjoyed Mr. Sloane’s company one last time at dinner on the night before his death in 1985 at the age of 80.
Eric Sloane was a highly regarded painter, learning his craft from his neighbor, sign painter and noted font inventor, Frederic Goudy before heading out on his own at the young age of 14. He became a member of the Hudson River School, wrote and illustrated thirty-eight books and painted almost every day, always with the goal of improving on the previous day’s work.
The Bennington has nine of Mr. Sloane’s work on display in the Galleries and a number of his drawings of covered bridges can be seen in the Covered Bridge Museum.