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C'est magnifique!

During his stewardship, Spence Perry wants to up the profile By KATE COLEMAN

During his stewardship, Spence Perry wants to up the profile By KATE COLEMAN

July 21, 2002|By KATE COLEMAN

katec@herald-mail.com

Spence Perry took a gamble when he bought an etching -- "Woman with Figs" -- at a Baltimore gallery in 1978. The authorship of the work by Paul Gauguin was in doubt because the French artist had done very little work in the print medium.

Perry was thrilled and his purchase validated 10 years ago when he saw the etching as the spotlighted exhibition opener in a Walters Art Museum exhibit of works in Gauguin early career.

Printmaking enables artists to make multiple copies of a work, says Jean Woods, museum director.

There are several different processes used in making prints. In each case, a plate is made of the image, ink is applied to a plate and then paper is pressed over the plate to make the print.

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In relief, the image to be printed is raised, as with wood block or linoleum block prints. Intaglio prints, including etchings like Perry's "Woman with Figs," come from incised or "cut in" plates.

"Woman with Figs," is on display at the Washington County Museum of Fine Arts through Sunday, Aug. 25.

It is one of more than 25 French prints from the collection of Spence and Cinda Perry. That collection includes some 300 artworks, extending from about 1150 A.D. to contemporary works.

The Perrys have been interested in "good representational pieces from all areas," and their collection is particularly deep in old master prints and drawings (1500-1800), French and American prints (1870-1998), and American painting and drawing (1800-1998), according to the "informal catalogue" of the "Cinda and Spence Perry Collection" Spence Perry put together for the September 1998 housewarming of their Hagerstown home.

Spence Perry's knowledge of art certainly qualifies him for the post to which he was recently elected. He is president of the board of trustees of the Washington County Museum of Fine Arts. His goal for his one-year term? Make the position so attractive that people will covet it.

But Perry has other experience that will serve him and the museum well -- a 25 year career as a lawyer in, among other federal agencies, the Federal Emergency Management Agency and Federal Insurance Administration with assignments in policy planning and program operation. He has lived in Hagerstown since 1988, became a member of the museum as soon as he moved here and has been a board member for about a year.

Perry also is involved in other areas of the community, serving on several boards of trustees or directors, including those of Horizon Good Will Industries, United Way of Washington County, Social Service Advisers, Zoning Appeals, St. James School and the vestry of St. John's Episcopal Church.

He knows the community and he wants the community to know its museum of fine arts. The museum often is referred to as the "hidden treasure" of Washington County.

Perry wants the museum to be less hidden.

"It's a serious working board," he says; it meets monthly year-round.

"The board's most important role is to support the director," Perry says. The board also needs to provide resources for instruction and programs -- "relevant programs," Perry says.

"We need to be in close touch with our community," he says. "We need to listen more."

The museum, recently reaccredited by the American Association of Museums, is one of only three fine arts museums in Maryland to have achieved that stature. The accreditation process tells you how good you are and what you need to do, Perry says.

Some changes come with that seal of approval, Perry says, among them board terms limited to six years instead of life tenure.

Perry's goal is to preserve what's workable and to break away from some of the restraint of the past. For the first time the museum will have a development department. Money needs to be raised and large gifts are needed, but Perry wants to know what the community wants and broaden the museum's base of support.

A program which brings Washington County school students to the museum will continue. A Board of Advisers will be instituted this year in hopes of getting new, younger people -- "the up and comers" involved in the museum. He also would like to see programs for senior citizens and more outreach to other cultural institutions in the area.

"In many cities, the museum is the hot ticket," Perry says. The museum already has a wonderful gift shop, music, film, lectures and is available for rental.

Perry wants more people to experience the Washington County Museum of Fine Arts, to enjoy it as he does.

For instance, he calls "New England Afternoon," an early 20th-century painting of Plainfield, N.H., by Willard Metcalf his favorite work in the museum. It recalls for him his youth as a Harvard undergraduate. Looking at the painting of summer, Perry says he can almost feel the heat and hear the insects.

"If you come often enough, you have friends in this collection," Perry says.

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