A Feeling of Humanity:
Western Art from the Ken Ratner Collection

September 17, 2016 – March 26, 2017:

On Saturday, Sept. 17, A Feeling of Humanity: Western Art From The Ken Ratner Collection, opened in the main gallery of the Museum, located on the Sul Ross State University campus. The exhibition features 70 works by both contemporary artists along with works by early 20th century painters including Kenneth Miller Adams, John Sloan, Boardman Robinson, Georges Schreiber and Bettina Steinke. This exhibit explores and celebrates the beautiful in the ordinary. Included in the show are works by contemporary Texas artists Julie Davis, Tony Eubanks, David Forks and V…. Vaughan.

Saturday, Sept. 17th activities began with Morning Gallery Talks, 10 a.m.-noon. Ratner presented “Forming the Feeling of Humanity Collection,” followed by exhibit artist Erin Hanson, Los Angeles, California, who made a powerpoint presentation on her painting style known as “Open Impressionism.” The opening reception for the show was scheduled from 6-8 p.m.

In 2014, museum director Liz Jackson and museum curator Mary Bones traveled to New York City to meet with Ratner to discuss the potential of exhibiting his unique collection at the Museum of the Big Bend. Enamored by Ratner’s story and collection, Jackson said, “We knew that his collection would be an extraordinary exhibit that we could bring to our patrons, visitors and community.”

Growing up in a Harlem housing project, Ratner came from very humble beginnings. As a young boy, he felt empathy for the poor, the homeless, and those who lived on the edge. These experiences shaped both his career and the art that he collected: he was drawn to humanity. He initially collected works by the Ashcan School of artists–urban realists who documented street scenes of New York City in the early twentieth century.

After 20 years of collecting the Ashcan School artists, Ratner felt the need to support the artists of today. In 2008, or so, he attended a Sotheby’s preview of important American paintings. There he came across two paintings by Gary Ernest Smith of western agrarian scenes that floored him. When he later learned of Smith’s comment that “art is a way of addressing humanity,” it heightened his interest in Smith and other western painters who had a humane response to their environment.


Turning Points in Teaching:
Early Education and the Annual Summer Normal in Alpine

Through September 3, 2017:

In 1886, shortly after then Murphyville, now Alpine, was established, a one-teacher school was established. The school continued to grow and by 1907 the Alpine Independent School District was established.

The president of the AISD was Joseph Daniel, J.D., Jackson and he along with school superintendent George W. Page oversaw the expansion of the district. More importantly, however, they created the Annual Alpine Summer Normal that offered continuing education courses to teachers in the area beginning in 1910.

With the incredible success of the Summer Normal, Jackson and others began a campaign was to secure a permanent Normal School in Alpine.

Learn more about these historic times in Alpine, what a Normal School is, the story of J.D. Jackson and the start of Sul Ross State University!


Images courtesy of the Archives of the Big Bend, Bryan Wildenthal Memorial Library, Sul Ross State University.

Big Bend Legacy

Big Bend Legacy

The exhibit Big Bend Legacy greets visitors as they enter the Museum of the Big Bend. Legacy introduces visitors to the distinctive natural history, human history and confluence of cultures in the Big Bend region. Native Americans inhabited the area for thousands of years before the arrival of the Europeans. The Spanish, through their system of missions and presidios, imprinted their customs on the region only to be replaced by the nation of Mexico. The westward expansion of the United States brought yet another unique culture to the Big Bend. Big Bend Legacy invites the visitor to experience this panorama of natural and human history. Enjoy the video montage below which walks you through the museum’s world-class permanent exhibits!