From Warren to Youngstown: The Butler Institute of American Art

It was a “wandering” day.

I like to wander. My husband and I climb into the car and, with no particular destination in mind, we start driving and see what new and interesting things we might find. This time we headed south down Rt. 46, enjoying scenery filled with front yard flower gardens, acres of woodlands, and farm fields of recently planted corn and soybeans. An hour or so later, we ended up in Warren at the Butler Institute of American Art (9350 East Market Street, Howland Township, Ohio 44484).8219317598_eb12039be1_b

The Trumbull branch of the Butler is a small museum and this month it offers an exhibit called the “Daniel Greene Retrospective” that runs through July 15, 2018. Check their website for current exhibits. Green’s paintings are each a slice of what you can only imagine must be a larger scene. His oil paintings are so realistic you’ll first wonder if they might be photographs. He is a master at painting realistic faces and textures. It was all I could do to keep myself from reaching out and touching a painting to make sure that the fuchsia jacket worn by a woman in the scene wasn’t real wool or that a tiled wall was really paint on canvas and not made with actual ceramic tiles.

The museum is free but there is a donation box where you can and should drop a couple of dollars on your way out. Visitors will find the doors open Wednesday – Saturday: 11 AM – 4 PM. Sunday: Noon – 4 PM. Closed Monday, Tuesday and major holidays. Parking is free.

It took us about 30 minutes to view the exhibit. As we were leaving, the attendant asked if we had been to the Butler’s main museum in Youngstown. We had not and had not intended to drive that way. His description sounded so interesting however, that we allowed our wandering to follow his advice. I looked up the address, plugged it into our GPS, and we were on our way.

The first thing that will impress you about the The Butler Institute of American Art (524 Wick Avenue, Youngstown, Ohio  44502) is the beautiful stately building that houses it. Listed on the National Register of Historic places, the tall white marble structure has two huge pillars flanking the entry. The museum opened in 1919 as America’s first museum dedicated exclusively to American Art. Inside, large open, sunlit spaces make it a perfect backdrop for the art that fills gallery walls. Works include many different styles and span several centuries. Two of the collections that were my favorites were “American Impressionism” and the “American Western Collection.”

You expect to find great works of art in the museums of large cities. I was impressed however, to find so many exquisite pieces by so many well-known artists in this small Ohio city. Included were works by Church, Homer, Whistler, Wyeth, Warhol, Pollock, Van Gogh and my favorite, a Bierstadt among numerous others.  We spent about 2 hours wandering from one gallery to the next and still did not see everything that the museum has to offer.

Winslow_Homer_-_Snap_the_Whip_(Butler_Institute_of_American_Art)

Winslow Homer in the Butler Institute of American Art.

One of the most fascinating displays is the “Security Guard as Art.” Throughout the museum you will see an occasional guard but there is one in particular that you should pay close attention to. I walked past him, sitting in a chair where he could easily observe the whole gallery. As I moved from one painting to the next I slowly began to realize that the guard seemed to be deep in thought. I glanced at him out of the corner of my eye. He wasn’t moving. Was he asleep? Time and again I glanced in his direction, expecting him to get up, or lean back in his chair, or, at the very least, give a yawn. But he sat perfectly still. That was when my husband entered the gallery and read the “Security Guard as Art” tag on the wall. We were both amazed. Neither of us could believe that this man wasn’t made of flesh and blood. Could he be a live person who had been hired to sit, still as stone, and represent art? With apprehension we began to take a closer look. Was he breathing? I  was nervous about getting too close. I expected the guard to jump at me at any moment with a loud comedic “Boo!” He had to be real! No one could create something this realistic from plastics or resins, could they? As we moved out of the gallery, we gave him a final glance over our shoulders, looking for even the slightest of movements. Is he a real man paid to sit in a chair? Or is he really a resin creation? I’ll let you visit and judge for yourself!

Visitors will find this Youngstown museum open Tuesday – Saturday: 11 AM to 4 PM. Sunday: Noon – 4 PM. It is closed Mondays and major holidays. Parking is free in the museum’s small lot. I would expect that at most times of the year, you would have no problem finding a parking space here. The museum is on the Youngstown State Campus and parking is also available in nearby YSU pay parking lots if the museum lot is full.

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