A Drawing by Rembrandt (Yes, that Rembrandt) [photo by Thomas Sufana]


Lowell High houses impressive art collection

Part of the Region Rambler’s mission is to find hidden gems in the area and bring them to the public’s attention. I’m excited to shine a spotlight on a project that caught me by surprise and gave me great pleasure to learn about.

In 2005, renovations at Lowell High School sparked an idea among members of the student council. Council members approached Thomas Sufana, the art department’s chairman, and proposed buying artwork to decorate the halls. They donated the initial dollars, which funded the purchase of two pieces: “Bust of a Man” by Dupre Lafon, a French artist, and “Sculpture #1,” a steel piece by Ann Singer, a Czechoslovakian artist.

Thus, Lowell High’s Fine Art Collection & Objects D’ Art was born. The collection’s hope is to foster access to and an appreciation for “art, architecture and other manifestations of historical, modern and contemporary visual experiences,” according to its mission statement.

There are many fantastic pieces of art in the collection such as “Landscape with Cow,” a print/etching by the famous Dutch artist Rembrandt. The school bought the piece from the Steeple Gallery in St. John through the efforts of the Tri-Creek Education Foundation, and a black-tie opening in 2005 celebrated the acquisition. The etching is on display in the lobby of the high school’s auditorium.

The collection is not just for looks. The school uses the fine art collection as a way to teach students about style, methods, use of color and other aspects of art.

Although the art department’s Sufana is nearing retirement, he plans to continue working with the collection to take it to the next level.

“I would like for other schools in our system to be able to use it as a teaching tool,” Sufana said. “I haven’t put the collection online due to the size of the file, but that is one possibility. Lowell has very few avenues, if any, for adult education in the visual arts. I would like us to focus on small groups (be it student or adult) having a discussion session to talk about the history, artist, styles, like the docents do at the Art Institute of Chicago, the Guggenheim (in New York City), the Louvre (in Paris).”

Sufana hopes to see the school bring in works by other masters.

“I would love to add a Picasso, Salvador Dali, Andy Warhol or others to the collection,” he said. “Funds are limited, but a signed lithograph by one of the artists is remotely possible.”

He said he’s researching the Net for possible sources, and a committee has been tasked with conducting a search, too.

The art collection has triggered queries from other schools and groups about how to embark on such an endeavor, he said.

“I am always willing to talk to groups about what to collect, how to go about starting a collection, where to find quality art pieces,” Sufana said. “After 35 years in public education, I have so many connections at my disposal, be it my affiliation with Indiana University, Valparaiso University, galleries in Chicago and across the country, as well as Steeple Gallery.”

He envisions a marriage between art and music to give viewers a fuller experience.

“For example, the conference room in our main office houses the various Asian collection pieces,” Sufana said. “When you enter the room, I would like to hear some Chinese music, the Rembrandt … a piece of music from the time period.

“I got this idea from Target of all places. … You know where they have the mood music CDs, and you push a button and it plays a short selection of the CD. If something was rigged up on the wall next to a certain art piece, a viewer could just punch the button and get a whole experience.”

I’m glad to see the Fine Art Collection & Objects D’ Art is in the hands of a visionary with drive and conviction.

The collection has grown to include more than 250 pieces of oil, acrylic and watercolor paintings, wood and marble sculptures, crystal, glass, ceramics, and a whole list of other pieces in numerous mediums. The collection embraces multiple cultures and ethnic groups, with pieces representing nearly fifty countries.

The collection is privately funded so no tax dollars are spent on supporting this treasure. In addition to the student council, contributors are the Tri-Creek Education Foundation, other school departments, local galleries and private donors.

For those who wish to contribute, you can send monetary donations to Lowell High School. Call (219) 696-7733, ext. 1536, for more information. Due to federal regulations, donation forms need to be filled out. Artwork can be donated as well, but the artwork must meet the mission statement.

The collection is open to the public once a year during Evening of the Arts, an event sponsored by the Tri-Kappa sorority and made possible through outside donations.

The event is a melding of the arts, incorporating music and theater, and tours of the art pieces are available, as well as private viewings. Other Tri-Creek schools also participate by exhibiting their artwork.

This hidden treasure in The Region brings the world’s cultures within our reach to experience firsthand the creative spirit of the human race. It offers the beauty of diversity and the realization of the commonalities we hold dear.

For more information, to set up a tour or to make a donation, call the school at the above number or write to Lowell High School, 2051 E. Commercial Ave., Lowell, IN 46356.