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Ormond Beach Observer Monday, Nov. 23, 2015 3 years ago

Museum celebrates anniversary with special exhibit

The show features the spiritual, symbolic art of the original donor.
by: Wayne Grant Real Estate Editor

The public will soon have a rare chance to see the artwork that started the Ormond Memorial Art Museum and Gardens, as the museum kicks off its 70th anniversary.

The art of Malcolm Fraser, the Canadian artist who dealt with themes of war, humanity and spirituality, will be on display from Nov. 28 until Jan. 10. The artist, who died in 1949, described the central theme of paintings as "Spirit is Life's Only Significant Reality.''

The museum always has a few of his paintings on the walls, but more than 30 will be displayed in the exhibit.

The paintings are considered symbolic, with thought-provoking ideas. The exhibit includes comments on each painting, written by Fraser himself.

Fraser, who had seen the horrors of war, wanted to honor veterans.

In 1946, he offered his paintings to the city of Ormond Beach, if the city agreed to find a place to display them. As a former visitor to Florida, he wanted them in a city with access to U.S. 1, so they could be seen by travelers.

City leaders were able to raise $10,000, with 90% of the residents in the small town donating, according to museum historical records.

The cottage-style building that fronts Granada Boulevard was already standing, and World War II veterans volunteered to construct the galleries and clear the land for the gardens, which still stand today.

Museum Director Susan Richmond notes that the museum began with a community effort, and the museum continues its work today with the help of volunteers and community support.

Also, Fraser’s legacy to honor veterans continues.

There are monuments to World War I, World War II, the Korean War and the Vietnam War on the grounds. Richmond said sometimes in the morning they will find a flag or a flower on the Vietnam Memorial, left by a person who wanted to pay respects in private when the museum was not open.

The museum also has veteran outreach programs, traveling the Veteran Wellness Center in Port Orange with monthly art projects. There are also programs for at-risk youth and those with health issues such as cancer patients.

Art with timeless relevance

Fraser’s affinity for veterans was cultivated at the start of World War I.  He had joined a French battalion, then later switched over to the International Red Cross as an ambulance driver.  He was highly decorated for his service.   

Roberta Smith Favis, Ph.D., professor emeritus of art history at Stetson University, who curated the exhibit, said Fraser’s paintings still have relevance.

“To Those Who Overcome A Crown of Glory Shall be Given,” with a luminous angel, expresses the eventual triumph that awaits the fallen. Courtesy photo

Fraser was Christian, but believed there were basic spiritual truths, not specific to any religion, that could help people move to a higher place beyond war, she said.  Another modern feature is that he has strong feminist characters in his paintings.

Fraser was an illustrator who studied with the masters in Europe and spent time painting church windows in Paris. After going on archaeological expeditions to Egypt, his work began to transcend into a more Christian, mystical idea. 

"He was certainly not particularly avant-garde in his style; his ideas were more interesting in a lot of ways than his art,'' Favis said.

After Fraser's death in 1949, his wife, sculptor Mary Aldrich, donated the peacock fountain sculpture that is now at the Halifax Drive entrance.


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