The Museum Founders
•The Eric Kelly Art Museum officially opened on May 4, 1982. The Stancil and Kelley family, which owns and operates the Museum, established in 1979 by Henry Stancil and his daughter Lovella S. Kelley Eric’s Grandmother, together with their art prodigy Eric Kelly. Early on, there was only one hallway in the house dedicated for the used as the place to display Eric works. The hall were lined with mostly portraits of historical African Americans, Carter G. Woodson, Harriet Tubman, sojourner truth, Dian Carol, Leroy Kelly, martin Luther King, Marcus Garvey and other known historical people in the nineteenth centuries. By the time Mr. Kelly got out of high school in 1975, the collection had grown to over 100 drawings, pastel paintings, and 25 other works of art, including such works on wood and some pottery. Eric dedication to his art making in high school won him the prestigious Art award by the Durham Links as the best artist in the state.
• Motivated by his love for history and the people who made it, Eric invited collectors to come by to buy his work. This was the idea that Henry Stancil proclaimed when the museum was started. Even though Eric was charged with the making the work for the museum, he was responsible in selling the work also. Mr. Stancil had made clear his desire that the future of the museum be “of the first class and works sold to collectors only,” and to further that aim, within a week of opening Henry Stancil, contributed money to the museum and to Eric so he would not have to sell his work just to keep the museum open. On his birthday November 5, 1975 his grandfather called him on the phone ask him to come to his house. Once their he asked Eric how many piece of art he had done to win the award. Eric responded about 50 to 75 pieces. Then his grandfather pulled out money and ask him could he buy all of it. It was the first time Eric sold a collection of his work at one time and it crystalize what his great grandfather meant by selling his art. The sale of his high school collection was the starting point of the museum be a possibility in his mind. To this day, that one gesture of his grandfather changed Eric’s way of thinking and understanding about art and his importance to making art!
•Eric went to college on art scholarship and continued to make art for the museum. He believed if he continued build a collection of work the museum would not fail. Once out of college Eric took art jobs and tried to sell art in the evenings in the new museum location on Elm Street. With the appointment in 1982 as the art director after graduation at North Carolina Central University. Eric began a time of reorganizing the museum. Eric was the museum first appointed director by his grandmother; he began planning for the future of the museum and how to develop the collection, both of which would fulfill the aspirations of selling work to collectors and making art. Eric to that end, as its Director, adopted a policy statement for the future museum practices. “Only appointments and only collectors” In the early day it was difficult to sell art because no one was looking to support museums, especially a museum named after the artist who was representing his own work. No one believe that the museum was a real museum. Some said it was not a real museum because it was not big enough; it was not downtown in an art district and most important it only had one artist in it.
• Eric found himself having to work during the day, which made the museum a part time gallery. Some years the museum went months without a sale. Yet it was Henry Stancil words that ring in his ear every day, “be relentless in your work, protect it and do your best and the collector will come, be patient. His Grandmother would say stand up for yourself and just believe in your art and the rest will take care of itself! This is your museum, your art is important and you have to believe in it, to keep it going” He found time in many of the various organization to paint or draw portraits of great leaders and to present them. Eric once said to a group of students at his high school “The museum is his life passion and he enjoyed making art to share with the world.”
•While things were not going well at the museum, Eric took a job selling cars, which would prove to change his life forever. He learned the purpose of selling value of a product and the pay allowed him to focus on making art. He began to use selling to collectors as his artist selling point. He finally understood what his great grandfather was talking about that the price is the value you put on it, but time is the value you put in it. Mr. Stancil would say, “Do your best work, sell it for what you believe it is worth, and don’t just give your talent away!
•In June 1989, while being the CEO of Kelly Worldwide Eric began outlining the museum purpose, scope, and program, among other things. That statement remains to this day the operative guide for the Museum. In accordance with that policy, the Museum showcases and sell works that define Eric Kelly III style, passion and energy as a museum living artist.
•The aim of the Eric Kelly Museum is not historical completeness but the making of individual art of “the highest possible aesthetic quality” as determined by condition, rarity, importance, and communicative powers. The rationale is that each work be defined by the significance of Eric’s time in his life journey through his art.
•Two aspects of the museum policy in particular have the greatest impact on changing the Eric Kelly collection: an expansion of vision to encompass world history and a new focus on building the collection through making yearly collection with key subjects and themes. The Eric Kelly collection today consists of about 2,550 works that not only epitomize Eric art making periods and movements, but also touch his high points of aesthetic beauty and historical importance.
• By: Jim Fields UBP TV Networks