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Local legend on display: Works sought for Schar exhibit at Nobles County Art Center

WORTHINGTON -- Every spring during the Area Art Show at the Nobles County Art Center, one participating artist is selected to receive the A.E. Schar Award for Excellence in Painting. Over the years, the art center staff has fielded questions abou...

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Paintings such as this one Gene Schar did of a country mill, which is in a private collection, are sought for a July exhibit of Schar’s work.

WORTHINGTON - Every spring during the Area Art Show at the Nobles County Art Center, one participating artist is selected to receive the A.E. Schar Award for Excellence in Painting. Over the years, the art center staff has fielded questions about the award, most particularly, “Who is A.E. Schar?”
In response to such queries, the art center is planning an exhibit of Schar’s work for July.
“Gene Schar is a Worthington legend,” explained Tricia Mikle, co-director of the art center, referring to a short biography of the late artist. “People often ask, what is the significance of this award, so we want to be able to tell a little of his story.”
Born in 1888 in Oslo, Norway, Axel Eugene “Gene” Schar came to the United States when he was 17 years of age and earned an art degree in New York City. He eventually came to work at a newspaper in Duluth, but was lured to Worthington by a fellow artist.
“I came to Worthington in the spring of 1945,” wrote Schar in a biography compiled by the art center. “My good friend, Arne Karhu, had been there for sometime and had been writing such wonderful word pictures about the town and the paper where he worked, the (Daily) Globe. During this time he had convinced Mr. Vance, the owner, that he knew just the person to run his new offset press. … I had a good job in Duluth, but the last of my family had gone west and I was all alone - so maybe a change of scenery would be good. I sent in my resignation and wrote Mr. Vance I would be down.”
In an effort to fit into the community, Schar began to offer art classes.
“I didn’t know anyone but the people at the Globe, and I was very lonesome,” Schar continued. “... So, I decided the only way I could ever fit in Worthington was to start an art class and begin to make a little niche for myself. In order to be happy in this little prairie town, I had to let the people know I had something to offer the town.”

Those classes were the start of the artistic legacy Schar left in Worthington. And coincidentally, Schar met his future wife, Naomi Moles, the local children’s librarian, in the “Brush and Pencil Club” he organized.
In the preface to Schar’s biography, art center co-director Jean Bunge and her late husband, Martin, credit Schar with being the one person most responsible “for stimulating interest in the visual arts in the Worthington area.
“Gene Schar taught classes, held art shows and painted while working full-time in the art department at the Worthington Daily Globe,” the Bunges wrote. “On occasion he would go back to Duluth to teach painting as well. Undoubtedly, Gene Schar’s influence helped to get art programs in the schools and to get enough interest to establish a county art center.”
The Bunges became friends with the Schars, and noted that Naomi also demonstrated talent in the visual arts and certainly played a role in promoting them locally.
Gene Schar died in 1984.
“After becoming familiar with Gene Schar’s work, we became convinced that his work ranks with the better representational artists in America during his lifetime,” the Bunges credited.
The Nobles County Art Center has several examples of Schar’s work in its permanent collection, but the art center staff wants to have a more extensive display for the July exhibit.
“We are hoping there are people who own Schar’s works who would be willing to loan them for the month of July to be shown at the Nobles County Art Center,” said Mikle.
People with Schar works are asked to contact the art center so the scope of the exhibit can be planned for in advance. The art center is open from noon to 2:30 p.m. Monday through Friday; phone 372-8245.

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A.E. Schar

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