Exploring Flagler’s hidden gem: The Crisp-Ellert Art Museum

By Elizabeth Thabault | gargoyle@flagler.edu

As students and faculty know, the Flagler College campus is jam-packed with historical charm and has a strong visual appeal to visitors and tourists. It is easy for one to become preoccupied with the beauty of the Ponce Hall courtyard and the intricate architecture of the main Ponce lobby, without exploring other less obvious attractions on campus.

However, there is an underrated, often overlooked historical aspect of Flagler’s campus that deserves more recognition. The Crisp-Ellert Art Museum is the official art museum of Flagler College. It lies subtly between the Ringhaver Student Center and Proctor Library. The museum features a wide range of art, spanning from local work to international exhibits. This gallery exemplifies Flagler College’s true liberal arts identity, as it displays many well-established artists.

The Crisp-Ellert Art Museum has a meaningful history as it initially belonged to artist Joann Crisp-Ellert, a prominent artist, author and professor. She and her husband Robert Ellert purchased the building in 1999, making it Crisp-Ellert’s personal art studio. Being in such close proximity to Flagler College, as their home was across from the studio on 48 Sevilla Street, the couple constantly involved themselves in Flagler College events. The diversity of artists featured allows the museum to honor Crisp-Ellert’s passion and dedication to Flagler College.

Crisp-Ellert was well recognized for her artistic ability, and being active in each community she was ever a part of. She received several awards, and her artwork is displayed in galleries across the country such as the Corcoran Gallery of Art, American University and Yale. Crisp-Ellert made her home in St. Augustine for the remainder of her life, and showed her dedication to the old city and Flagler College by donating her former studio to the campus shortly before her death in 2007.

The museum now honors Crisp-Ellert’s life and serves as an educational tool for Flagler art students, and those interested in expanding their artistic horizons. Two of Joann Crisp-Ellert’s original paintings are currently on display in the museum. Both are self-portraits which convey her signature painting style, using vivid colors and subtle textures to create large-scale works. The works represent her common use of perspective and depth perception to create interesting compositional layouts, which can be noticed in each of her paintings.

Julie Dickover, the Crisp-Ellert Museum Director, is a strong advocate for the Museum’s charm and artistic credibility.

“There are few places in North-East Florida that show quite a range of contemporary art by
regional but also national and international artists. Many of these artists visit Flagler to give artist talks which enhances the cultural atmosphere on campus and in St. Augustine,” said Dickover.

Along with Crisp-Ellert’s originals, the gallery features a variety of exhibits which usually transition every month to display new artists’ works. For the month of March, the featured exhibit is called “What Could Be” by Anna Von Mertens, a New Hampshire artist. Von Mertens hand-dyes and hand-stitches fabric to produce intense pieces, which are often inspired by combining broad ideas with her own personal connections to them. She finds that exploring relationships between the artist and its subject contributes positively to her work. Von Mertens also aims to explore the significance of our own existence through her pieces.

Artists such as Von Mertens contribute to the educational , historical and visual appeal of the Crisp-Ellert Art Museum. Dickover further emphasizes its educational value.

“The exhibitions are organized independently, but we strive to foster an interdisciplinary conversation within the campus community by encouraging professors to bring their classes in for visits and to utilize the museum in their curriculum,” she said.

The museum is open to the public during class hours and admission is free. Dickover announced there are many more exhibits coming up to be on the lookout for.

“In the near future, we have the B.F.A. And B.A. Senior Portfolio exhibition opening on April 18. This semi-annual exhibition is the culmination of the past four years for students in the Department of Art and Design, and always includes a wide variety of mediums such as painting, drawing, video, sculpture and more,” said Dickover.

Along with the work of Flagler Students, the museum will display an array of other artists within the next year.

“I’m really excited for our exhibition schedule next year,” Dickover said, “It will include a display of mixed media works by Texas artist Liz Rodda to kick off the academic year in September. I’m also organizing an exhibition of Southern African American folk art in January 2014 that will coincide with the 50th anniversary of Civil Right’s Act,” said Dickover.

Although the location causes the Crisp-Ellert Museum building to blend into the background of Flagler’s campus, the unique exhibits featured will continue to draw in visitors and enlighten those who seek more artistic knowledge.

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