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Nemeth Art Center to celebrate 35th year Saturday

A permanent home for the Old Masters works is being discussed.

The Park Rapids Nemeth Art Center will be celebrating its 35th anniversary on June 30. The occasion is not only to celebrate the founding of the museum, but also to fundraise money for the Old Master's Collection to be preserved and moved to the Armory.

This rare collection is definitely worth preserving. Made up of the works of students of Bosch, Rubens, Rembrandt, Titian and many others, this collection is a rare jewel to find so far away from a major-city gallery.

Bosch, Rubens, Rembrandt, Titian and the others represented in the collection were all 16th and 17th century Flemish and Dutch master painters in Europe. Students of master painters in that time were instructed to recreate the works of their instructors, teaching the students their techniques.

The originals of these copies are currently on display in various art galleries in Europe, including in the U.K., Spain and Italy.

These rare paintings were once housed in Europe as well, and not together. Over the course of many years, an art restorer, Gabor Nemeth, and his wife gradually acquired the paintings. Together, they collected the 40 beautiful paintings on display today.

After WWII ended, Gabor and his wife immigrated to the United States with the paintings, where the two would buy a summer home in Park Rapids.

Eventually, in 1977, Gabor decided to put his collection on public display. The initial plan was to have St. John's University be the beneficiary. Instead, Gabor decided to give them to the town of Park Rapids, as he had developed a connection with the community.

After a brief period of fundraising and debate, the collection was given a home in the old courthouse. It is here the collection has stayed for 35 years, only open during the warmer summer months.

Without a proper heating system, the paintings are at risk for damage from the frigid temperatures. It is this fact that has prompted the center's Board of Directors to move the collection from the inadequate courthouse to the fully-heated Armory. With proper climate control, the collection could remain open to the viewing public year round.

The Board of Directors include Chairman LouAnn Muhm, Vice Chairman Sandy Fynboh, Treasurer Christine Jessen, Secretary Shelly Mahowald, members Aaron Spangler, Brita Sailer, Lorelei Kraft, Andrew Thomason and Kristin Mattson-Fake, and Executive Director Meredith Lynn.

To celebrate 35 years of exceptional art, the entire Old Master's Collection will be displayed on June 30. These paintings have not been displayed all together in this manner since its unveiling in 1977. The center's hours are from 10:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays, from May to September. Entrance is free, but a donation of $1 per person is encouraged.