Ron and Judy Drury were newlyweds living in Dade County, Fla., when they marshaled their spare change and spent the last Sunday of 1979 in search of signed, original work by famed modernist artist Robert Rauschenberg.
Rauschenberg, who had a home and studio on nearby Captiva Island, was known as a versatile artist whose work included paintings, prints, photography and sculpture. So it made sense that Leon Rosenblatt, as art director of Tropic Magazine (the Sunday offering of The Miami Herald) and inventor of a process that allowed for large runs of original lithography to be printed on commercial newspaper presses, would reach out to Rauschenberg to participate in a largescale artistic experiment. Rauschenberg agreed to produce an original piece of artwork using Rosenblatt’s process to serve as the Tropic’s cover for the issue to hit stands Dec. 30.
“He was such a great artist, in terms of always wanting to push limits of what art was,” Rosenblatt said of Rauschenberg, who died in 2008. “I remember Bob thinking it was really fun.”
The Miami Herald printed somewhere between 600,000 and 800,000 of Rauschenberg’s cover, a four-color collage that incorporated images of South Florida and which Rosenblatt describes as “the world’s largest edition of an original lithograph.” For an added bit of fun, Rauschenberg visited the Herald’s pressroom and signed between 100 and 150 covers.
It was one of these signed covers that the Drurys – he was a police officer in Dade County and she was a middle school art teacher – and others were seeking that day at newspaper boxes and newsstands. There was a bit of confusion over that, Rosenblatt said. The bulk of the signed magazine covers were distributed at random to newspaper subscribers. Nevertheless, the young couple returned home that day with a stack of about 30 Rauschenbergs.
“When they ran out of quarters they stopped,” explains daughter Denise Drury, interim director of WCU’s Fine Art Museum. These many years later, the couple – in the midst of planning a retirement to Brevard – has contributed one of the Rauschenberg works, now valued at more than $900, to a silent auction to benefit student scholarships and programs in WCU’s College of Fine and Performing Arts.
The Rauschenberg print is among the works of art, gift baskets and gift certificates for hotels, restaurants, shops, lessons and services and jewelry up for bid. Also on the auction block are opportunities to mingle with WCU glitterati: an evening with Terrence Mann, WCU Phillips Distinguished Professor in Musical Theatre; a “fireside chat” with Ron Rash, the university’s Parris Distinguished Professor of Appalachian Culture; and a “Champagne by Candlelight” evening with Susan Brummell and Chancellor David O. Belcher, complete with a musical performance by the duo. Jan Parker, a support specialist with WCU’s College of Fine and Performing Arts who has been inventorying items, estimates the value of contributions at approximately $30,000. Information about items up for bid is available at the auction preview site foasilentauction.wordpress.com.
The silent auction and the raffle of a getaway for two to New York City, both organized by WCU’s Friends of the Arts organization, are planned in conjunction with the musical theatre production of “The Drowsy Chaperone,” to stage April 11-14 in WCU’s John W. Bardo Fine and Performing Arts Center. The auction will run in the Bardo Arts Center lobby beginning two hours before each performance. Entrance to the auction is free and open to all and does not require a ticket to the play.
The New York City raffle tickets cost $50 apiece with a limited number of 200 for purchase at the Bardo Arts Center box office and (depending on availability) at performances. The trip package, worth an estimated $3,000, includes travel, meals, accommodations and tickets to the Broadway show “Pippin,” featuring Mann.
Mann will direct “The Drowsy Chaperone,” a playful take on classic musicals of Broadway. Stage and screen faculty members Claire Eye, Nathan Thomas and Karyn Tomczak serve respectively as co-director, musical director and choreographer. Performances will begin at 7:30 p.m. April 11-13 and 3 p.m. April 14. Admission to “The Drowsy Chaperone” is $20 for adults; $15 for seniors and WCU faculty and staff; and $7 (in advance) and $10 (day of show) for students. For tickets to “The Drowsy Chaperone,” visit the Bardo Arts Center box office, call (828)227-2479 or order online at bardoartscenter.wcu.edu.