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Stunning sun­rises and sky­scapes break over the mys­te­rious rocks of Stone­henge in Brian Curtis’ exhibit, cur­rently on display in the Daughtry Gallery of the Sage Center for the Arts.

Curtis, a former pro­fessor at Hillsdale from 1980 to 1983, returned home­coming weekend to unveil his oil-paintings of Stone­henge. Although he only worked at Hillsdale for three years, Curtis’ impact was felt by campus pub­li­ca­tions and stu­dents both past and present.

Pro­fessor of Art Sam Knecht invited Curtis to show his art in Sage. Curtis, uncertain of what art to display, drew a series of sky­scapes fea­turing Stone­henge.

“I wanted to paint land­scapes and skies, and I love the stones,” Curtis said.

He used his favorite medium, oil paints, to create the real­istic scenery.

“Strangely enough, unlike con­tem­porary art, paintings doesn’t mean any­thing,” Curtis said. “They’re just meant to be looked at. If it doesn’t talk to you then one of us has missed the boat.”

Instead of forcing a meaning upon vis­itors, Curtis attached small descrip­tions of various Neolithic myths.

“He takes inspi­ration from very inter­esting places,” said junior Forester McClatchey, an art student who focuses on oil painting and pen and ink illus­tra­tions.

The ability of a young painter to look at a pre­de­cessors’ work firsthand and con­verse with the artist is an invaluable asset.

“He paints a sky off of what he feels from the myth,” McClatchey said. “The idea of painting from a sen­sation rather than a concept is a valuable one.”

Alumni Peter Williams ‘83 attended his former instructor’s exhibit. Williams fol­lowed the example of his pro­fessors, Sam Knecht and Brian Curtis and has taught at Kellogg Com­munity College in Battle Creek, Michigan for 23 years. Williams spent his first year at an art school before he trans­ferred back to his hometown of Hillsdale.

“[Curtis] really broadened my scope of the world — he was a big impact on me,” Williams said.

The power of Curtis’ artistic ability has not affected only the stu­dents, but campus pub­li­ca­tions. During his time at Hillsdale, Curtis redesigned the masthead of The Col­legian. While the masthead has since been re-altered, the college’s logo, past yearbook covers and Tower Player’s posters were all created by Curtis and his stu­dents. For all the impact his art had, Curtis didn’t plan on being an artist orig­i­nally.

Curtis hails from the northeast and grew up in a suburb on Long Island.

“I lived near the great cul­tural center of the world —New York— and I hardly ever accessed it,” Curtis said.

As is all too common in a society focused on ‘applicable’ and ‘valuable’ skills, Curtis said that artistic endeavors were “not sup­ported by my envi­ronment.” Despite his lack of par­tic­i­pation in the nearby culture and the absence of artistic support as a kid, a desire to create lurked inside of Curtis.

“I had an aptitude for it and everyone sort of smiled, but it wasn’t the kind of thing you thought to go into as a career,” Curtis said with a grin.

Curtis attended Boston College and grad­uated with a degree in soci­ology.

“I worked with delin­quents at a res­i­dential treatment center right out of college,” Curtis said.

After he worked for four years with troubled kids, Curtis wished a career change.

“It just wasn’t as sat­is­fying as I had hoped, so I returned to a local state art school,” Curtis said. “I had a summer job working for a sign painter in Wareham, Mass­a­chu­setts. It was the first time I met a man who made a living with his hands and he loved what he did. And I thought, I’ve got to find some­thing like that.”

After seven years of schooling, Curtis grad­uated from the Uni­versity of Houston with a graduate degree in painting.

“Upon grad­u­ation I got a job at a little school in the center of Michigan called Hillsdale,” Curtis said.

It was his first teaching job. Curtis worked directly alongside Pro­fessor Sam Knecht and taught mul­tiple art classes, including drawing and painting.

“Arts were not tremen­dously sup­ported while I was here [Hillsdale],”  Curtis said. “What the college has done with the art, music and theatre depart­ments — I am just astounded by how won­derful it is.”