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Western Kentucky University



   Joe Downing
   Museum + Arboretum
   Visiting the Museum



   P.O. Box One
   Bowling Green KY 42102







DOWNING MUSEUM front door and macro view of painted doors, ball and chainJoe Downing's studio  Ménerbes 2007DOWNING MUSEUM totem and interior hallJoe Downing totem  macro viewDOWNING MUSEUM  Joe Downing paint palette {Ménerbes 2007}DOWNING MUSEUM interior view with painted bone DOWNING MUSEUM painted bone macro viewDOWNING MUSEUM view of silo + totem  macro view totemDOWNING MUSEUM totem macro viewDOWNING MUSEUM exterior view  winter ice storm

 The Downing Museum, which officially opened in 2009 as a part of The Baker Arboretum, displays a vast collection of artwork by the late Joe Downing. Joe Downing was a world-renowned artist, WKU alumnus and brother of the late WKU President Dero Downing. Baker and Joe Downing were long-time personal friends who collaborated on the design of the Downing Museum.

Surely, the pure beauty of the works of Joe Downing can be observed by all, yet the observations of his niece, Elizabeth Downing, offer an insight to the man, his phenomenal creativity and compassionate spirit:

"We could see the product of his creativity even if we would never fully grasp the way he saw the world. For he saw through a special prism of light, shape, texture and hue. He saw the possibility in every small thing be it paper, fabric, wood, leather or bone. He saw the value in preserving what others had thought could be tossed aside. He saw beauty all around him and he made us feel more beautiful as people, for he also saw our possibilities."


The Downing Museum at Baker Arboretum has the most comprehensive collection of the varied works that Joe Downing created during his lifetime. Looking through the collection, one can see his work evolve through changes in shape and color. One can grasp his exploration of traditional media, but one can only wonder at the personal vision that embraced certain found objects and used them to create works of art. The selection process has been very subjective.

The first exhibit was influenced by the surprise of opening all the crates for the first time and responding immediately to certain large works, which became the focal points of the exhibit. Like divas on a stage they were paired with other strong pieces or supported by a chorus of smaller more subtle works. There was always an intention to display the variety of the collection and with more works stored than able to be displayed, it was assumed that the works would rotate. This enables individual works to be viewed in different contexts, which helps the viewer understand the complexities of Joe Downing's visual expressions.

The second exhibit took advantage of exhibition preparator, Charles Hurst's catalog and skills. Not all of the works are easy to display and some needed repair. The second exhibit had more time to allow for these situations and to have pedestals created for some of the smaller works. Joe Downing's interest in collage and cut shapes created a secondary theme to a number of the selected groupings.


collection description provided by exhibit curators:

Laurin D. Notheisen | Professor WKU Department of Art

Ivan Schieferdecker |  Professor Emeritus WKU Department of Art

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 Last Modified 10/16/14