Though known as strong supporters within the Jewish community, Seattleites Herb and Lucy Pruzan are also longtime patrons of an evolutionary Northwest art scene.
Through Oct. 6, Tacoma Art Museum will share more than 100 works in a retrospective exhibit from the Pruzan’s half-century of collecting, “Creating the New Northwest: Selections from the Herb and Lucy Pruzan Collection.” The exhibition includes works in a variety of art media, painting, sculpture, ceramics and glass, many created by established artists strongly identified with the Northwest: William Cumming, Gaylen Hansen, William Ivey, Fay Jones, Alden Mason and Ginny Ruffner.
Their art is intermixed with works by newer, less-known artists on the rise. Four large, abstract, colorful paintings hang in a stairway to introduce the main exhibit.
“[With the installation,] we tried to give a hint as to how the Pruzans lived with their art,” said Rock Hushka, curator of Contemporary and Northwest Art at Tacoma Art Museum. “The works are installed thematically, representing the development of Northwest art over 50 years.”
The museum even repainted the gallery’s wall in colors to recreate the Pruzan’s home interiors, showing how the couple lives with their art on an everyday basis.
“Creating the New Northwest” shares the story of how Northwest artists have shaped new perceptions and a new sense of artistic identity. The collection ranges from abstract paintings to figurative work, pop art, glass and landscapes. Hushka arranged the landscapes, installed near the entry, “in a tight salon way. It’s good as a teaching tool,” he said.
“Art brings you out of yourself and into something else that has meaning,” said Herb Pruzan. “We’re interested in the artist and the work that they produce, regardless of the style or fashion.”
Many of the artworks in the exhibition are early works and in some instances are the first works sold by the artists. The Pruzans have followed the work of some artists since the beginning of their careers, including painter Joseph Park, mixed-media sculptor Jeffry Mitchell, ceramic sculptor Akio Takamori, and mixed-media artist Whiting Tennis.
“The Pruzans came to understand that artists were finding materials to help express the experience of the Northwest: Water, forests, and earth were literally being formed into a new sense of identity,” Hushka said. “Although the Pruzans never set out to specifically form a collection or ‘accumulation,’ as Lucy calls it, it stands as a testament to their passions and reflects their belief in the essential contributions of art and artists that strengthen our communities.”
“The Pruzans remain constant in their support of our region’s artists, galleries, and museums,” said Stephanie A. Stebich, the director of Tacoma Art Museum. “Their commitment to new trends and ideas strengthens the Northwest artist community.”
“Creating the New Northwest” marks an auspicious moment in the growth of the museum’s permanent collection; the Pruzans have promised nine works to the museum, in addition to five already in TAM’s permanent collection. The gifts help advance the museum’s goal to develop the premier collection of Northwest art, according to museum staff.
“I’ve been on the collections committee at the Tacoma Art Museum for a number of years and have seen how their leadership is proceeding to develop a definitive collection of Northwest Art, which has been a great interest of ours,” said Herb Pruzan.
But, he added, the couple is interested in supporting art institutions throughout the Pacific Northwest, and have given or promised works to Seattle Art Museum, Portland Art Museum and the Henry Gallery at the University of Washington.”
A hard-bound exhibition catalogue, “Creating the New Northwest: Selections from the Herb and Lucy Pruzan Collection,” with photos of the artwork and essays by Hushka and Northwest art critic Matthew Kangas, accompanies the exhibit. The catalog provides useful background about the works and the philosophy behind a half-century of collecting.