Artists’ Portrait Finds A Permanent Home in Greenville Museum of Art

Allen Weiss’ photographic portrait of Frances Speight and Sarah Blakeslee is donated.

June 12, 2011 (Raleigh, NC) – The 1988 black and white portrait of legendary North

1988 portrait of Sarah Blakeslee and Frances Speight by Allen Weiss has been doated to the Greenville NC Museum of Art.

Carolina artists Frances Speight and Sarah Blakeslee by Allen Weiss has been donated to the Greenville Museum of Art to accompany the permanent gallery there honoring the couple, who lived in Greenville.

The portrait was part of a recent exhibition at Lee Hansley Gallery in Raleigh entitled, “Black & White, Color & Light: Photographs by Allen Weiss and Works by His Subjects.” The exhibition included Weiss’ portraits of 11 of North Carolina’s premiere artists, first shown in 1988 when the collection was commissioned by Melissa Peden, a respected art patron and former gallery owner. All of three of the artists are deceased now, including Speight and Blakeslee.

Marion Johnson Church of Raleigh purchased the Speight and Blakeslee portrait and donated it to the Greenville Museum of Art in honor of her grandson, John Church Bacon, who is retiring from the Museum’s Board of Trustees.

“The gift honors his service to the museum,” said gallery owner Lee Hansley who arranged the sale. Hansley’s gallery hosted the exhibition from March 13 through April 30th originally, then extended it for two more weeks.

Weiss, principal of Allen Weiss: Works on Film & Paper in Raleigh, was delighted to hear about the donation.

“It is always gratifying when someone thinks enough of your work to buy it,” he said. “As someone who has exhibited with other photographers who have work in art institutions, I’ll admit I’ve always been a bit jealous. It means the world to me to know my work is finally in the permanent collection of a museum.”

Lee Hansley Gallery also arranged the sale of six portraits from the show to Johnson Development Associates, Inc. of Spartanburg, SC, to add to the company’s extensive collection of art by Southern artists.

To see the complete collection of Weiss’ black and white portraits of North Carolina artists, go to and click on “Projects & Series.”

For more information on Allen Weiss: Works on Film & Paper, visit

For more information on the Greenville Museum of Art, go to For more information on Lee Hansley Gallery, visit

About Frances Speight and Sarah Blakeslee:

From the Greenville Museum of Art:  “Francis Speight and his wife Sarah Blakeslee are two of the most important artists who lived and worked in North Carolina during the 20th century… Speight taught painting and drawing at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts from 1925 until 1961. In 1936 he married Blakeslee, who had been one of his students at the academy’s Country School at Chester Springs, Pennsylvania. In 1961 they moved to Greenville, North Carolina, where Francis became the artist-in-residence at East Carolina College. Sarah painted and taught adult classes at local art centers.”

About Allen Weiss:

After 15 years as a professional photographer in Raleigh and New York, Allen Weiss turned his attention towards short films, public service announcements and television commercials, both regionally and internationally. Recently, he launched Allen Weiss: Works on Film & Paper to offer still photography of all varieties, film and video (director, DP, cameraman), and freelance writing/branding. For more information visit

NCCU Art Museum Receives Major Gift

September 3, 2008 (DURHAM, NC) — Mary Jo and Dick Bell of Atlantic Beach, NC, recently donated 14 significant works of art by the late A.B. Jackson to the North Carolina Central University Art Museum in Durham, NC.

The Jackson collection, part of the Bells’ personal art collection, is valued at $194,000, according to a professional appraisal by Joseph Rowand of Somerhill Gallery in Durham.

“The Bells’ gift is the largest gift in the history of the museum, and we are absolutely delighted” said the art museum’s director, Kenneth Rodgers. “It fills a void in our collection from the region, so we are ecstatic. And we will make it available on a number of occasions to benefit our students and many beyond. We hope the Triangle community will come to see it and appreciate it as much as we do.”

The Bells’ donation includes watercolors, pastels, charcoal and acrylic works by the renowned artist whose pieces hang in many museums, universities and other institutions. Former President Lyndon B. Johnson also owned Jackson’s work.

The son of an Irish mother and black father, Jackson earned two art degrees from Yale in the mid-1950s. He taught art for 10 years at Norfolk State before joining Old Dominion as a full professor and the school’s first black faculty member. He died in 1981 at the age of 55.

The Bells decided to donate their collection to NCCU’s Art Museum because director Rodgers expressed interest in a show of Jackson’s work in the past.

The breadth of the Bells’ donation was intentional. “We wanted to give the University a representative collection so that students could look at the work and understand what it took to be so adept in so many media,” Dick Bell said.

Mary Jo and Dick Bell have been avid collectors of North Carolina art since Mary Jo opened the former Garden Gallery in the Water Garden complex on Highway 70 in Raleigh in the Sixties. Determined to support and advocate North Carolina artists, their personal collection represents most of the state’s finest artists.

The Bells lived and worked at Water Garden from 1955 until last year. A master landscape architect, Dick Bell created Water Garden as Raleigh’s first mixed-use development. It included their residence, his offices, Garden Gallery and other leased office spaces, and represented Bell’s naturalistic approach to landscape architecture.

The Bells sold Water Garden last year and moved to their condominium in Atlantic Beach. With the gallery closed and their living environment downsized, they’ve looked for ways to share their extensive art collection. The NCCU donation is part of that effort.

“We’ve been fortunate to be able to collect so much art,” Dick Bell said. “Now we’re happy to disseminate it — to share the work of such great artists as A.B. Jackson.”

For more information on the NCCU Art Museum, go to


Chapel Hill Artist Kimberly Alvis Donates Oil Painting to “Works of Heart”

The Pumpkin Patch
The Pumpkin Patch

August 21, 2008 (CHAPEL HILL, NC) – Award-winning fine artist Kimberly Alvis of Chapel Hill, NC, has donated one of her oil paintings to Works of Heart, the Triangle area’s premiere charity art auction to benefit The Alliance of AIDS Services-Carolina (AAS-C), which will be held Saturday, October 11, in downtown Raleigh.

Alvis’ painting, entitled “The Pumpkin Patch,” is 18h x 24w oil on linen with a retail value of $950.

“I’m so happy to be a part of any effort to combat this disease,” Alvis said.

The 2008 Works of Heart gala and auction marks the 18th year of the annual event to raise money for those living with and affected by HIV and AIDS.

“At no time has it been more apparent that our success is tied to the success of the artists whose works are on display,” said Adam Cave, the 2008 chair of the Works of Heart Art Committee.

Cave notes on the organization’s website that this year’s event is set to surpass one million in total dollars raised since the auction was launched in 1991. For complete information visit

Originally from Staten Island, New York, Kimberly Alvis has had her work exhibited nationally at such venues as The Art Students League, The Salmagundi Club and the Washington Square Outdoor Art Exhibit, all in New York City, and the Huntsman Fine Arts Gallery in Aspen, Colorado.

Alvis’ representational art has received numerous awards, including Best In Show two years in a row from The Arts Students League Annual Student Exhibition in New York City.

She is represented locally by Somerhill Gallery in Durham and The Little Art Gallery and Craft Collection in Raleigh. For more information and to see more of the artist’s work, visit