40 paintings by late professor saved from destruction

Kalamazoo and Battle Creek

KALAMAZOO, Mich. (WOOD) — Once headed for a landfill, dozens of paintings created by a former Western Michigan University art professor are getting a new life as part of the university’s collection.

Forty of Dwayne Lowder’s paintings were donated to WMU and are now on display at the Richmond Center for Visual Arts. Indra Lacis, the director of exhibits, says other works are also on loan from private collectors so visitors can see Lowder’s vast array of talents.

“This exhibition is in some way dominated by his paintings, but Dwayne Lowder also worked in stained glass, he was a sculptor, he was trained in photography,” Lacis said.

dwayne lowder art
Paintings by former Western Michigan University Professor Dwayne Lowder on display at the Richmond Center for Visual Arts. (Nick Ponton/WOOD TV8 – Feb. 25, 2020)

Lowder was part of the WMU faculty from 1966 to 1982. He retired to rural Virginia, where he ran an orchid farm and continued to create art.

John M. Carney, a friend and former WMU colleague, shared a campus workspace with Lowder for many years, becoming acquainted with the artist, who mostly kept to himself.

“You could get to know him up to a certain level and there was always a little bit of distance,” Carney said.

After Lowder died in 2018, Carney learned a realtor had discovered the artwork tucked away in Lowder’s attic after an estate sale. With no provisions in his will for what would happen to the paintings, they were transferred to Radford University, which did not have enough space to keep them.

So Carney took possession of the paintings and made arrangements with WMU to donate 40 to the university’s collection.

dwayne lowder art
Paintings by former Western Michigan University Professor Dwayne Lowder on display at the Richmond Center for Visual Arts. (Nick Ponton/WOOD TV8 – Feb. 25, 2020)

“For all of us who knew him, he was our Leonardo Da Vinci,” Carney said. “I don’t care what it was, whatever he did, it was fabulous.”

The works would have been thrown away if no one came forward to claim them.

“It’s an incredible feeling of relief and I think it would have been just heartbreaking had these paintings not seen the light of day,” Lacis said.

The Dwayne Lowder exhibition is free and runs through March 8. For more information on viewing it, visit the Richmond Center for Visual Arts website.

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