The Mattie Kelly Arts Center Galleries house a world-class, multi-million dollar permanent collection assembled since the founding of NWF State College (then Okaloosa-Walton Junior College) in 1963. Selections from the Permanent Collection are displayed in the Galleries at least twice per year, during the Summer Highlight and Holiday Spotlight. More than 1,000 artworks make up this teaching collection, which includes multiple sub-collections.
The Original Campus Collection
Okaloosa-Walton Junior College was founded in 1963, and classes began in 1964. Within only its first few years as an institution, community members began building the college’s fine art collection through donations and bequests. These pieces – representing a wide range of original and reproduction media – were displayed in classrooms and public spaces; many of these early additions to the collection can still be seen around campus.
Before there was an Arts Center (complete with art storage facilities), works of art in the Campus Collection were catalogued like books and were considered part of the library’s holdings. The most fragile and valuable artworks were stored in the Rare Books Room, the closest facility the college had to an art vault in those days.
The Campus Collection has continued to grow through five decades of collecting and remains the backbone of the larger Permanent Collection. It remains a broad-based teaching collection, representing arts of all media, genres, and styles.
The Emil Holzhauer Collection
Since 1967, NWF State College has been charged with the tasks of preserving the works and legacy of painter Emil Holzhauer. What began as a promised gift of 400 works has grown into a nationally-recognized permanent collection, and has enriched the college’s arts and educational programming, visual appeal, and institutional reputation. The college created an Honorary Art Department Chair for Holzhauer and provides perpetual care and display of the collection with a priority given to showing the versatility and accomplishments of the artist and preserving the visual images he created and collected over a lifetime. Emil Holzhauer died in 1986 at the age of 99.
Much of Holzhauer’s work is characteristic of the Ashcan School of painting, which advocated painting directly from life with freedom and spontaneity. In 1909, Holzhauer became a student of Robert Henri (a leading exponent of the Ashcan movement) in New York, and much of his oeuvre reflects this period. Like other American masters of the period – Edward Hopper, George Bellows, and Morris Kantor – Holzhauer painted things as they really were. Holzhauer’s career spanned much of the century, and can be divided into periods, each with its own subtly distinct characteristics, based on geography (among other factors): early work in Germany, New York, Mexico in the 1950s and ’60s, Macon, Georgia, and the Florida Panhandle.
The Emil Holzhauer Collection primarily represents Holzhauer’s American career (although the Permanent Collection does include a few designs from his work as a flatware designer in Germany). Paintings, works on paper, and archival materials are included in the collection. In late 2016, 50 works from the Holzhauer Collection traveled to the Museum im Prediger of Schwäbisch Gmünd, Germany – the artist’s hometown – for a major retrospective exhibition.
The L.R. Davis Early American Flint Glass Goblet Collection
Lachlan R. Davis of Destin (a Washington, D.C. native) bequeathed his Flint Glass Goblet Collection to Okaloosa-Walton Community College in 1994 (the M.J. Davis Bellflower Collection was donated at the same time). Over 330 goblets comprise the collection, which was assembled between 1950 and 1993. It is one of the most complete collections of such goblets in the United States.
Goblets in the Davis collection date from 1829 – 1870. Most were created prior to the Civil War using crude, hand-held iron pressing machines. These early presses used a glass formula that contained lead, which made the molten glass more pliable and produced a prism-like quality comparable to the more expensive European lead crystal of the day. Flint glass is therefore often referred to as “poor man’s crystal.”
Though it remained in limited production during and after the American Civil War, flint glass largely disappeared in the mid-nineteenth century. Lead was scarce as resources were shifted to the war effort, and new techniques for making cheaper, safer alternatives were developed.
The L.R. Davis Early American Flint Glass Goblet Collection represents a distinct moment in the history of American domestic art. No two goblets in the collection are the same; Davis instead chose to assemble a collection that described the staggering breadth of this unique American art form.
The M.J. Davis Bellflower Pattern Pressed Glass Collection
Mildred J. Davis donated her extensive collection of Bellflower pattern pressed glass to Okaloosa-Walton Community College in 1994; her gift was made alongside her husband’s bequest of his Flint Glass Goblet Collection. Around 1830, soon after the advent of the American pressed glass industry, manufacturers began producing complete sets of tableware in matching patterns. The Davis Bellflower collection, which decorates glassware with a delicate design of flowers, vines and tendrils, and incised lines, is fully complete save two goblets that Davis was never able to find.
The Sublette New Guinea Collection
In 1994, Alvah T. Sublette, Jr. of Lancaster, Pennsylvania, donated the 300-piece New Guinea “Primitive” Art Collection to Okaloosa-Walton Community College. Sublette and his wife, Betty, had been world travelers for years and amassed an extensive collection of folk arts and traditional crafts on their visits to Europe, Central America, the South Pacific, and Asia.
All items in the collection were obtained in the Sepik River region of Papua New Guinea or from sites along the Gulf of Papua. They were created from wood and decorated with natural materials (plant and animal products), and colored with natural dyes and pigments like charcoal, lime, and ochre. The range of objects in the collection is spectacular; life-size (or larger) figures, hooks and bowls, tools, instruments, masks, jewelry, and shields are but a few of the objects represented, nearly all of which would have been used in a ritual or spiritual context.
Alvah Sublette donated his New Guinea Collection in memory of his wife, Betty Sublette and their son, Oliver T. Sublette, who both died in 1991. During his lifetime, Oliver had worked as an artist and a drama coach with the New Guinea National Theatre, and had helped his parents amass their impressive collection as he recorded stories and local histories in the remote wilds of New Guinea.
The Harmuth Mask Collection
The Harmuth Mask Collection was given to Okaloosa-Walton Community College in 1998 as a promised gift from Dr. Henning and Anne Harmuth of Destin, Florida. The Harmuths traveled the world together for nearly forty years, amassing an impressive collection of works from every continent except Antarctica. The collection represents a variety of mask-making traditions and techniques; the masks range in size from just four inches to over four feet tall, and materials used in their construction are as varied as the faces, themselves. Wood, papier-maché, plaster, straw and plant fibers, seashells, and metal are commonly employed materials, but some masks challenge traditional Western notions of art-making with their incorporation of hair and teeth (both human and animal).
Different cultures make and utilize masks for different purposes, and the Harmuth Collection exemplifies masking traditions both well understood (like theatrical masks and portraits) and comparatively unknown (apotropaic plague masks or ritual fetish masks). The Harmuth Masks have attracted attention in the community for years, and recently other collectors have made donations to grow the collection, as well.
The Salvador Dalí Collection
In 1951, the Italian government commissioned Spanish Surrealist Salvador Dalí to create a series of illustrations for a new, septuacentennial edition of Dante Alighieri’s early 14th century masterpiece, The Divine Comedy. Though the government later canceled the commission (public outcry was strong over the choice of a Spanish rather than an Italian artist), Dalí continued work on the project, creating 100 watercolor illustrations. Between 1959 and 1963, 3,600 individual wood blocks had to be carved to translate the original watercolors into prints; each color or line in these works is represented by a single, hand-carved block. Dalí’s watercolors are lost to history, but the work lives on in the print suite published by Joseph Foret and Jean Estrade.
In 1999, collector Dotty Blacker donated her complete suite of 100 Dalí woodblock prints to Okaloosa-Walton Community College. Since 1999, other works by Dalí have been donated to complement the woodblocks and grow the collection.
The Marie Snow Greene Collection
In 2006, Okaloosa-Walton College inherited the art collection and many other assets of Marie Snow Greene. She was a watercolor artist and local art teacher, and had been a longtime student of Emil Holzhauer. Her generous bequest allowed the college to establish the Marie Snow Greene Visual Arts Building and the Greene Visual Resource Library, and added significantly to the Permanent Collection.
The Greene Collection includes paintings, prints, and drawings by Marie Snow Greene, archival materials, and works of art collected by the artist. Greene traveled extensively, and her collection of works by others reflects a strong interest in the contemporary arts of Asia. She documented her travels to Asia and to Central America in her own watercolors, some of which are currently on view. Greene’s legacy continues to support NWF State College through support of student scholarships.