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Traveling Texas: Western Art at the Pearce Museum

Posted at 3:28 PM, Apr 05, 2023

CORSICANA, Texas — The Navarro County city of Corsicana is celebrating its 175th anniversary. They’ve got activities planned every month — many of them focusing on the visual arts.

You may think of the Netflix series “Cheer” at the mention of Navarro College in Corsicana. But it is also home to the internationally acclaimed Pearce Museum, containing hundreds of pieces of modern Western art.

Much of the art here was collected by Charles and Peggy Pearce who met in college at Cornell and came to the Corsicana area as a young married couple.

Executive Director Ann Zembala tells 25 News the Pearce’s only collected from living artists like Roy Grinnell, who became a leading figure in Western art. He asked the Pearce’s to pose for a painting.

“And they collected Western art because it's very narrative and draws you in and makes you think about the stories in the paintings. What's going on? Who are these people? So Roy Grinnell knew that, and so he told them that they were an old Western couple meeting again after having been apart for many, many years," said Zembala. "They were a very devoted couple and just was amazing. Their adult children have told me this is the one painting that they get back. If we were to ever disperse our collection, which we never will.”

A collection of more than 250 pieces of art that’s recently been re-appraised at many times more than the Pearce’s paid for it. The gallery is set up in small rooms, like the Pearce’s second home in Santa Fe, New Mexico. And artists are attracted here.

“This is a beautiful Western art collection.”

Artists like Oklahoma native Karla Brady Massingill, who now lives in Hurst. She was at the Pearce for an invitational art show.

“When I was in a show at the Pearce Museum a few years ago, I discovered the wonderful collection they have here," said Massingill. "And so I've been encouraging everybody from DFW to drive down to Corsicana and see that permanent collection here, because it is stunning and it's some of the best Western art in the country.”

Karla loves re-creating rural scenes and the great outdoors like her works “Blue Barn” and “Artist’s Point at Yellowstone.”

“It had always been my dream to go there. And so as Yellowstone celebrated its 150th anniversary last year, I thought, 'Well, I'm gonna do a painting from some of my photos,'" said Massingill.

Karla is impressed by the Pearce’s collection of Native American art.

“Yeah. You know, we have to think those are our native indigenous people, you know, So it's a respect to them to paint them, you know, and to understand their cultures," Massingill said.

“This is one of our masterpieces. Probably the most valuable painting in our collection because it is a work of art by Howard Turning, who is again a master of the Western art genre and a famous illustrator. The Pierces loved Western art because of its narrative quality, the storytelling," said Zembala.

"And I think one of the reasons that this painting they had to have it is because it's called 'Grandfather Speaks,' and it is about family stories and storytelling and you see the chief sitting in the center and he's obviously relaying the stories of their tribe and their family to his grandchildren, who I wish my grandchildren looked at me with this kind of rapt attention when I was telling family stories.”

Give yourself plenty of time for your visit. Admission is $8 for adults, $6 for seniors, and $4 for students. Hours are 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday-Friday and noon to 4 p.m. Saturdays.