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SWCC’s Art Exhibit Presents “A Peek at Stardom”


A nostalgic highlight of the 25th Festival of the Arts venues presented by Southwest Virginia Community College during the month of April is the exhibition of “A Peek at Stardom: Film Memorabilia from the Weisfeld Collection.” The former owner of Abingdon’s Star Museum, Robert Weisfeld, has collected entertainment industry memorabilia for decades. Now he’s pleased to be sharing selected pieces, documenting over a half-century, as part of this year’s Festival of the Arts theme: “Spotlight on the Movies: The Music, the Dance, the Fashion, the Stories.”

The exhibition will be on display at SWCC in the Ellen Von Dehsen Elmes Gallery in the Charles R. King Community Center from April 1-30. An Opening Reception and commentary offered by Weisfeld on his collection will take place in the gallery on Sunday afternoon, April 7th, beginning at 1:00 p.m. The event is free, open to the public, and will precede another Festival event “Festival Fanfare: Piano x Three” also in the King Community Center, beginning at 3:00 p.m.

A Peak at Stardom encompasses film’s role in social history during the mid-19th century Golden Age of film. The exhibit offers one-of-a-kind apparel or personal artifacts owned or utilized by the famous, including Clint Eastwood’s autographed helmet from Kelly’s Heroes, shoes worn by Betty Grable and Ray Bolger, star life casts made for make-up tests, and many more unique artifacts from film’s glamorous era.

“There can be no doubt among all art forms of the last century, film was the most significant,” says Weisfeld. “The Weisfeld Collection celebrates that phenomenon, especially during film’s Golden Age studio system, when the industry was among the greatest business monopolies the world’s ever known.”

“Classic Hollywood influences every single art form. Film, and our reliance upon it in all its mutations, has expanded into streaming video. George Clooney’s is today’s conclusion to Cary Grant; Lady Gaga’s the potential Judy Garland of now. And yet for annual output, we’ve never quite surpassed 1939.”

The show encompasses film’s role in social history, highlighting stardom, personality, beauty, luck and often, rare talent. Here are stars forgotten or remembered, the least having secured our fleeting attention, the best personifying timeless creative genius, documented in images or on film.

“It’s not just looking back,” Weisfeld points out. “The exhibition’s a collage expression of our influences, passions, fantasies. Remember that quote from Hamlet: ‘We know what we are, but not what we may be.’

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