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A Picture Worth a Thousand Notes

by Jay Salter '19 | External Communications Coordinator - August 11, 2023


NEWBERRY — In just the last few years, Newberry has been the canvas for a grassroots art renaissance.


The small Midlands town is home to a growing community of creators and connoisseurs, covering all forms, genres and media through the performing and visual arts. Among individual artists and the various hubs of creativity — including Newberry College, Newberry Made, the Newberry Opera House and the Newberry Arts Center — there is a collaboration and a camaraderie so characteristic of the City of Friendly Folks.


A longstanding association has been the Newberry Chamber Orchestra, formed in 2013 at Newberry College and open to students, college staff, and members of the community. The group gives a concert each fall and spring semester, incorporating everything from the Baroque to the 20th century and even performing works arranged by students. Dr. Patrick Casey, professor of music education, took up the baton in January 2016, and the group has only grown in size and in prominence.


This town and gown collaboration added another layer in May when local artist Robert Matheson painted the ensemble in concert at the Newberry Opera House. Perched in the orchestra right boxes, to the sounds of Bach, Mozart and Stevie Wonder, he rendered the performers and their conductor in acrylic on canvas.


Last week, Matheson presented the work to Newberry College in honor of Casey's work for artistic collaboration in Newberry.


“I think the power of this type of project is community, art and collaboration, and that’s something that both [my wife] Amy and I have tried to foster, and I believe the College is doing that as well,” said Matheson. “It’s powerful to have a community that can elevate the arts and culture of Newberry County, and that’s ultimately what this was about.


“I’m so proud to have [the painting] in the permanent collection at the College. It was an honor to participate and I can’t wait to do more,” he added.


Since settling in Newberry in 2019, Matheson has undoubtedly made a name for himself, not only as an artist, but as a leader and pioneer. The Utah native spearheaded the creation of Newberry Made, a community of over 160 local artists and makers that began as a single exhibition nearly four years ago. Since then, he has introduced “poetrees” — trees on which others are invited to leave poems — to the local flora, and opened South Carolina’s first museum for non-fungible tokens, or NFTs. He can usually be found there or at his studio at 1213 Main St., painting or enjoying coffee and live music under his poetree.


“What excites me most is the double connection, between the arts — music and visual art — and the College and the community,” said Dr. Chris Sheppard, chair of music at Newberry College. “That’s what I love most about this, and not to mention the painting, which is fabulous.”


Matheson’s orchestral painting will go on display in the lobby of the college’s Alumni Music Center on Luther St. A limited number of 11x17 prints are available for purchase, with all proceeds benefiting the College’s Pay It Forward Scholarship in Music Education. Prints are $20 unframed or $30 framed. To reserve one of these prints, contact Dr. Patrick Casey. They can also be purchased at the Alumni Market at Homecoming on Saturday, Oct. 14.


Top photo: Dr. Wiebke Strehl, dean of arts, humanities & social sciences; Dr. Chris Sheppard, chair of music; Dr. Patrick Casey, music director of the Newberry Chamber Orchestra; Robert Matheson and Amy Matheson share the painting at the Matheson Art Studio in Newberry.

Right: Robert and Amy Matheson discuss the painting inside their studio.

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