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Artist memorializes former high school just in time

Published: Tuesday, Nov. 5, 2013 1:15 a.m. CDT
Caption
(AP)
In this Oct. 14 photo, Pekin artist Wally Gent points out nuances of a painting he did of Pekin’s West Campus. Gent’s decision to paint a landscape of West Campus came in the nick of time. West Campus is to be donated to a developer who, in the coming weeks or months, will demolish the 1916 building, the theater and the classroom addition attached to it.

PEKIN (AP) – Pekin artist Wallace Gent spends a great deal of his time capturing on canvas what is forever gone.

Gent has painted pictures of the former Carnegie Library at the corner of South Fourth Street and Broadway Road, the old Opera House on the corner of Elizabeth and Capitol, the Pekin Theater on Capitol, the old railroad Terminal Station on lower Margaret Street – all from pictures of the former Pekin landmarks. He also painted a picture of the lower part of Court Street.

It would appear that Gent’s decision to paint a landscape of Pekin’s West Campus recently came in the nick of time. West Campus is to be donated to a developer who, in the coming weeks or months, will demolish the 1916 building, the theater and the classroom addition attached to it.

“I painted it because of all of the talk here lately that they were going to tear it down,” said Gent, 77, of the painting. “I wanted to paint it before they tore it down.”

It took him 25 hours, off and on, to complete the painting over 2 months. The painting depicts life on the campus in the 1950s. Parked in front of the school is a 1952 hard-top Chevrolet. The girls outside are in sweaters, poodle skirts and saddle shoes. The boys had the rolled-up jeans. The side of the building has the unmistakable “Boys Entrance” on the side. The painting is very detailed.

The 1952 Chevy, a classic, was placed in the photo to give it a timeframe.

“I didn’t have a car,” he said. “That wasn’t mine – it was just to date the painting.”

Gent attended the old West Campus, but left school in his sophomore year to join the Army and fight in Korea.

Gent has been painting for 25 years. He now uses acrylics rather than oil paint because of the smell and drying time associated with oil paints. Gent paints landscapes, wildlife, westerns and cityscapes.

Gent is self-trained, with the exception of art classes as a boy in school. His painting is a hobby.

“I would be a starving artist if it was to support myself,” said Gent.

Gent is unsure what he will do with the painting – sell it or keep it.

“There are too many pictures in this house,” said Anneliese, Gent’s wife, with a smile.

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Source: Pekin Daily Times, http://bit.ly/16dMNEN

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Information from: Pekin Daily Times, http://www.pekintimes.com

This is an Illinois Exchange story shared by the Pekin Daily Times.

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
 

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