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NCMA renamed to honor noted curator, restorer Gabor Nemeth

Gabor Nemeth sparked the inception of North Country Museum of Arts in the 1970s. The museum has been renamed Nemeth Art Center to honor him. (Jean Ruzicka / Enterprise)

The North Country Museum of Arts has a new name, Nemeth Art Center.

The decision was made to honor the man behind its inception, Gabor Nemeth, and define its role as a progressive, vibrant community center, explained director Kelly Grossman.

"It's more than a museum," she said of the variety of exhibits and workshops offered each season in the former courthouse. "It's not stagnant," she said of traditional, static exhibits. "It's very much alive."

It was a frigid January night in 1977 when an estimated 4,000 adults and students arrived to view the works of 16th and 17th Century Flemish and Dutch masters at the Park Rapids Area High School.

Hungarian immigrant Nemeth had acquired the Old Masters collection as payment during his years spent researching and restoring artwork in Europe.

The event would launch the inception of the North Country Museum of Arts. Nemeth and his wife decided not to donate the works to St. John's University, as they had originally planned.

The collection would remain in Park Rapids. Thirty families agreed to purchase the artwork displayed in the museum.

"I'm still happy it happened," Nemeth said of the museum last summer. He returned from San Francisco to honor his late protégé, Ross Zirkle.

Zirkle was in his first year of college when he became acquainted with the art restorer, researcher and curator who'd emigrated after World War II.

"Nemeth was the best art teacher he met," Clyde Zirkle said of his son.

Nemeth could not be reached for comment but is reportedly pleased with the board's decision.

Nemeth Art Center will open for the season May 3. "Marking the Land," by Boston based photographer Jim Dow, will be the first exhibit of the season.

The photo collection of rural Midwest communities was commissioned by the North Dakota Museum of Art a quarter century ago.

The photography is described as "a gentle assessment of a time, a land and its people - just outside the picture frame, the weather that mandates constant change."

A reception will be held at 5 p.m. Tuesday, May 3 with Matthew Wallace, director of the North Dakota Museum of Art, to discuss the collection.

The 31st Juried Fine Arts Student Exhibit will also be on display in May, with a reception and awards ceremony from 2 to 4 p.m. May 14 in the Great Hall.

As has become tradition, a student's work will be chosen to be displayed in Washington, D.C.

The student artwork expo is funded by an Itasca-Mantrap Round Up grant.

Art center hours are 10:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday.