Hart’s Studio Recreated
A visit to the Frederick Hart Studio Museum at Belmont University allows you to witness first-hand sculptor Frederick Hart’s (1943-1999) creative process. The Frederick Hart Studio Museum is a tribute to Hart’s enduring influence in the movement to reinvest art with meaning and purpose.
Walk among artworks in various stages of development—nascent sketches in clay, preliminary models, and finished plasters. Puzzle over arrays of sculpting tools and imagine a masterwork emerging from the clay stored in a large metal drum next to his work station. Peruse Hart’s books, photographs, and personal papers as they were on his desk in the office of the Virginia studio. Awaiting you is a unique experience of what some have described as a sacred space.
The Frederick Hart Studio Museum located on Belmont University’s campus opened March 28, 2019. Based on detailed photographs and consultation with the Hart family, the museum is a re-creation of the working studio sculptor Frederick Hart built and maintained in Hume, Virginia from 1987 until his death in 1999. It is the largest permanent collection of Hart’s works open to the public and is the archival repository of the artist’s books and papers. The authenticity at the heart of the museum draws the visitor into the artist’s world of maquettes, models, and finalized designs in multiple mediums. Hart’s pioneering work in the medium of cast clear acrylic resin is on ample display. The numerous acrylic pieces in the collection invite visitors to follow the progress of Hart’s experimentation and to discover what Hart meant by “sculpting with light.”
The collection includes more than 250 works donated to Belmont by Bob Chase, Hart’s publisher and president of the Frederick Hart Foundation, and Lindy Lain Hart, the sculptor’s wife. In addition, Hart patrons such as Lee and Pam Kennedy of Sarasota, Florida expanded the collection with generous donations of Hart bronzes including the life-size bronze Christ Rising.
The museum’s emphasis on the process of art opens the door to historical and biographical insights into Hart’s life and to the experiences that shaped his philosophy and led him to the critical positioning of the human figure at the center of visual arts. The meticulous re-creation of the studio, combined with the breadth of works on display, encourages visitors to visually follow the path of Hart’s creative process and emotionally to step into the mind of the artist.
The layout and design of the space is possible thanks to the generosity and guidance of the Frederick Hart Foundation. Visitors are invited to experience what is truly an innovative and visionary approach to the life and philosophy of Frederick Hart:
If art is to flourish in the twenty-first century, it must renew its moral authority by rededicating itself to life. It must be an enriching, ennobling, and vital partner in the public pursuit of civilization. It should be a majestic presence in everyday life just as it was in the past.”
– Frederick Hart
America’s Master Sculptor
Frederick Hart forever changed the national landscape with works such as Washington National Cathedral’s Creation Sculptures and the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Three Soldiers statue. Hart received the highly esteemed National Medal of Arts in 2004. Special legislation allowed the first posthumous presentation of the award. The award citation reads: “For his important body of work— Including the Washington National Cathedral’s Creation Sculptures and the Vietnam Veterans Memorial’s Three Soldiers—which heralded a new age for contemporary public art.”
Hart’s work is critically acclaimed as traditional in its adherence to the human figure, radical in its sensuality, and innovative in its materials.
In 1997, upon receiving a unique casting of The Cross of the Millennium in a private ceremony at the Vatican in Rome, Pope John Paul II noted that the sculpture was a “a profound theological statement for our day.” Author Tom Wolfe noted, “Rick is – and I do not say this lightly – America’s greatest sculptor.”
“My feeling is that the artist’s greatest challenge is to make men see, as if for the first time. To alter and enrich man’s perception and conception of the world and himself. How? By seeing its Truth as it has never been seen before. This is to me the essential purpose and value of art.”
– Frederick Hart
Preserving the Work
Formed in 2010, the Frederick Hart Foundation is a non-profit entity with the mission to preserve and perpetuate the ideals set forth by Frederick Hart regarding the ongoing purpose and mission of figurative art, its place within contemporary culture, its need for innovation through new technologies and materials, and its vital role in affirming our society’s ideals of truth, beauty and goodness.
Bob Chase, President of Frederick Hart Foundation and Publisher of Frederick Hart works —
“Hart believed that the cultural tides were changing and that the 21st century would bring a renaissance and an age of enlightenment. He determined to create sculptures that physically and spiritually reflected this and spoke to the transforming power of beauty. It is no surprise that at a time when the art world had largely spurned the human figure, Hart chose to champion it.”
Belmont’s relationship with Hart’s work dates back nearly two decades. In 2002, Ex Nihilo, Working Model, cast marble (Washington National Cathedral’s Creation Sculptures) was donated to Belmont by long-time University benefactor Barbara Massey Rogers. The work is installed on the south exterior wall of the University’s Chapel, facing the lobby of the Ayers Academic Center.
Belmont University President Dr. Bob Fisher said, “Frederick Hart was a pioneer in his time, and the legacy and impact of his art is immeasurable. His work invites us to awaken to the divine forces in our world while keeping us grounded in the goodness, truth and beauty found in everyday life. To have so much of his work available for viewing on this campus is an invaluable gift, one that I believe will prove inspirational for our students and the broader community for generations to come.”
Lindy Lain Hart, wife of the artist. – “In the spring of 2004, Belmont University showcased the art and legacy of my husband with the largest exhibition at that time entitled ‘The Creative Spirit.’ This bold exhibition forged a powerful and enduring alliance which set the stage for the 2019 opening of The Frederick Hart Studio and Museum at Belmont University. I am personally grateful that we can expand and deepen the singular and major force of the Frederick Hart legacy. I consider Belmont to be gifting a national treasure to the University and Nashville.”