By Jordan Imlah
While being yanked around the streets of Florence for hours by a rich, eccentric aunt to find an obscure kiosk, Madison Sowell wondered how he ever got himself into this situation, especially on his honeymoon.
Little did he know that once the kiosk was found and his Aunt Geneva bought him and his new bride a rare 19th century, antique dance print as a wedding gift, another bond would be formed between husband and wife and their passion for art collection.
What started out as one print in 1977 has grown into a collection of almost 2,000 prints, paintings, books and art objects for Sowell and his wife, Debra, the owners of the Museum of Art”s newest exhibit “Splendor and Spectacle: Images from Court Ballet to Broadway.”
“I saw how happy that first print made my wife and I figured the rest of my marriage would be easy if I just kept giving her more,” Sowell joked.
After recently publishing a book, “The Romantic Ballet,” the Sowells were approached by the MOA at BYU and asked to display a portion of their collection.
“We wanted to share the things we love with the people we love,”Sowell”s wife said.
Having resided and studied in Italy, France, England and the United States, the Sowell”s have amassed a unique and extensive collection of dance artwork, said Campbell Gray, director of the MOA.
“The only other comparable places to see a collection of this magnitude is either Harvard or the New York Public Library,” Gray said. “This is a rich visual feast.”
Gray said the MOA was attracted to this exhibit for the benefits that it would provide to the students and the community.
“This exhibit is historically significant and educationally profound,” Gray said.
Before the camera and before film, this art was a social education program, Gray said.
Etiquette, relationships and social manners are exhibited in these prints. These images are symbolic. They were metaphors on how to behave and they taught the people how to be moral citizens, Gray said.
“This is one of the greatest collections of art prints and objects of dance and ballet in America,” said Paul Anderson, curator of special exhibits for the MOA. “A lot of people are connected to dance in some way or another here, and this collection has great educational value to further that connection.”
Splendor and Spectacle will be on exhibit in the Museum of Art until Dec. 31. Admission is free.