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MCC’s Ray Frederick Gallery celebrates 30th anniversary

Ray Frederick, Sept. 2017

Ray Frederick with one of his paintings. The retired MCC Art Professor will celebrate his 91st birthday on Oct. 12. He still paints in a studio in his apartment in Cedar Falls. (Photo courtesy of the Frederick Family)

How do art lovers celebrate the 30th anniversary of a gallery? They make sure it’s filled with artwork! This year marks the 30th anniversary of Marshalltown Community College’s Ray Frederick Gallery, and MCC Art Faculty Tim Castle says that monthly shows continue to be booked out more than four years into the future. “That’s a really good thing,” Castle smiles.

Named after retired MCC Art Faculty Ray Frederick, the gallery (originally located in a large classroom) was dedicated in 1987. The Gallery was rededicated in its current location (MCC room 306) following the College’s Phase V construction in 1993. Frederick was MCC’s art instructor from 1953 to 1986, and his paintings were exhibited both during the 1987 dedication and during the 1993 christening of the new Gallery. He most recently exhibited his own work in October 2000, and then he attended the exhibit of former student David Bratzel’s artwork in 2014.

“My career as an art educator was an incredible journey through my life, and the lives of my students,” says Frederick, now a resident of Cedar Falls. “I moved to Marshalltown in the early 1950s after accepting a teaching job in the junior high school. While there, a handful of students showed much appreciation for art, and we began to develop a friendship. If my memory is accurate, the building in which I was housed offered courses to students in junior and senior high, as well as the community college. Eventually I had the unique opportunity to teach for all three. Those same students enrolled for more art courses at each level, and our friendship continued to grow.  Being an educator allowed me to affect the lives of countless students. Once I was teaching at the college, students often came over to my house to socialize. On occasion, we even took spur-of-the-moment trips to the Chicago Art Institute! I had the unique opportunity to interact with my students on a deep, personal level – helping them explore their emotions and dreams. That small group of students I first met at the junior high became my lifelong friends.”

Frederick describes his artistic career as a great adventure. “Through my art I have had many opportunities to travel, including trips to Japan on an artist exchange program, and to Rome to visit its many wonders. These trips and others, as well as time spent traveling the United States, generated much of the inspiration for my art. You could say that everything I did focused on art. Every trip and every vacation involved visits to art museums or shows. I would stop to enjoy beautiful scenery not only with the wonder that we all experience, but also with the eye of an artist – how would I frame this scene if I painted it? How would I capture the depth, the mix of colors, and the textures? I was always searching, always admiring, always imagining my next piece.”

Frederick says his career at MCC played a large part in the teaching, personal, and professional aspects of his life. “I have fond memories of my time there, and especially of friendships developed over the years. I was both surprised and honored when I heard of the plans to create the Ray Frederick Gallery. The opening show was one of the largest that I have ever done! I had many opportunities to attend shows there during the years since the opening. It is a great joy for me knowing that, in some small way, I am still able to be a part of the lives of a new generation of artists.”

Castle reports that the College is adhering to the original intent of using the Gallery for educational purposes. “We publicize our shows locally and districtwide, and we have a large number of people, including our students and staff, view each exhibit.” In addition to featuring community, regional and international artists, the Gallery showcases MCC student artwork at the conclusion of each semester in November/December and April/May.

“Visual art is about ideas and looking at the world and ourselves more deeply,” explains Castle. “Great artwork is well-crafted, with an interesting vision behind it. We want to teach our students and others that there are different ways of being in the world and looking at things. Art makes us more well-rounded and helps viewers gain an empathy and understanding of others.”

Castle, who is in his 19th year at MCC, looks forward to continuing to meet artists and book new exhibits. “There are many more artists in Marshall County and the surrounding area that we’d like to showcase in the future. It’s always fresh, new and inspiring.”

The MCC Ray Frederick Gallery is open to the public Monday through Friday from 8:30 am to 5 pm. The Gallery is located just south of the library and across the hall from the bookstore in room 306.

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