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New artwork available to view at Mason City’s MacNider Museum

Image of Kelly Artwork

MASON CITY – The MacNider Art Museum has purchased a painting by American artist Ellsworth Kelly in memory of longtime Museum supporter Soc Pappajohn.  The work was purchased with funds donated the Pappajohn family.

Socrates Pappajohn was a lifelong supporter of the arts.  He was first appointed to the Charles H. MacNider Museum Board of Trustees in 1973 and remained on the board until 2009.  He was instrumental in the creation of the MacNider Museum Foundation in 1996 which allowed for the Museum to use bequests to further the Museum’s financial stability.  He remained on that board until his passing.

Soc was an art enthusiast who spent many volunteer hours on Museum’s acquisition committee, assisting the staff in purchases that would become the core of the Museum’s outstanding American art collection.  He pushed to acquire pieces that were the most representative of the particular artist in question in order to better educate the public.

The artist Ellsworth Kelly was born in 1923 in Newburgh, New York.  As a young child he studied birds with his grandmother which helped form his early ideas related to the use of color.  After high school he attended Pratt Institute in Brooklyn, as his parents would not pay for artistic training, only technical training.  He attended until 1941 when he joined the army.  He served during WWII and later returned to college, using the GI Bill to pay for his education.

He attended the School of Fine Arts in Boston and later traveled abroad to gain artistic experiences.  During this time he moved away from figurative works of art into abstract painting.  His works emphasized color, line, and form instead of a recognizable figure.  Kelly became known for contributions to the color field movement, which is characterized by large swaths of color across the canvas that creates an unbroken plane.  By the 1970s he started to incorporate signature curves in his work, similar to the piece donated to the MacNider.  Kelly became one of the top abstract artists in the United States by the time of his death in 2015.

The acquisition of the Kelly piece is important to the growth of the Museum’s collection.  “This piece clearly demonstrates the color field movement” explained Museum Director Edith Blanchard. “Soc would frequently suggest when looking for new acquisitions to collect an Ellsworth Kelly piece, but the timing was never right to acquire one.  I can think of no better artist to represent Soc in the Museum’s collection.”

Visitors may view the piece during the current open hours of the Museum Tuesday –Saturday 10:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m., with extended hours till 8:00 p.m. on Thursdays.  It is located at 303 2nd Street SE, Mason City, Iowa and has no admission fee.  More information about exhibits, programs, and events can be found at the Museum’s website at or at its Facebook page.  You can also call 641-421-3666 for more information.

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