October 20, 2020

Oliver Smith Exhibition

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CNCF to exhibit works of Tony Award-Winning theatre set designer

Grand Cayman, – 6 June 2018 – As part of its ongoing Arts & Culture Memorandum of Understanding with the University of South Florida (), the Cayman National Cultural Foundation (CNCF) will present a special exhibit of the theatrical designs of (1918-1994). Hosted at the Harquail Theatre, the exhibit will be on display from Tuesday, 26 June to Saturday, 30 June, and open to the public from 10am to 7pm each day. Admission is free. An opening reception will take place on the Tuesday from 6pm to 8pm where Dr. from USF, who co-curated the exhibition, will officially introduce the exhibition to attendees. Dr. Finelli is a professor in the School of Theatre and Dance at the University of South Florida and has written extensively on scenography and the Oliver Smith archive.

In the pantheon of 20th century American scenic designers, Oliver Smith is unmatched for his breadth of work in theatre, dance and opera. During his legendary career, he was honoured with eight Tony Awards, including two in the same year (1961) for Best Scenic Design of a Musical (Camelot) and Best Scenic Design of a Play (Becket).

Smith’s Broadway set designs began in the era when settings were primarily painted backdrops and spanned the period that featured more unit settings. While a consummate artist in the “painterly” tradition, Smith had a keen sense of stage space and anticipated the contemporary emphasis on architectural design. This new exhibit offers rare insight into a prolific master scenographer with rarely seen examples of Smith’s extraordinary range, from the backdrop elevations for On the Town (1944), High Button Shoes (1947) and Swan Lake (1967) to the Diazo print drafting of the fire escapes in West Side Story (1957).

During his illustrious career, Smith created scenic designs for many iconic American musicals including My Fair Lady, Hello, Dolly!, Oklahoma, Brigadoon, Sound of Music and more than 60 others. He was co-producer with Lucia Chase for 40 years at the American Ballet Theater, where he collaborated with Agnes de Mille (Rodeo), and Jerome Robbins (Fancy Free). This exhibit features the iconic Corral Scene from Rodeo (1942), with uniquely styled horsetail clouds that are Smith’s signature flourish and appear in renderings of scenes in the Midwest. Dance companies still perform the piece around the world, always with Oliver Smith’s decor.

“Since most theatre designs are working drawings to help the director, designer and scene shops to visualize the production and are often cast aside when the show opens, we are fortunate to have this unique selection of giclée prints to examine in this exhibit,” said Dr. Finelli. “Although full-scale production on the stage is the ultimate objective, many designers’ renderings, including those produced by Oliver Smith, are works of art worthy of exhibition in a gallery or museum, providing the opportunity to learn and enjoy. It also gives us a nostalgic look at stage design in the pre-computer era.”

CNCF Artistic Director, Henry Muttoo said he hopes that “students of art and theatre goers in the Cayman Islands will gain a deeper understanding and appreciation for the necessity of the scenic designer in theatre” as a result of viewing the exhibit.

The exhibit, which was also curated by Dan Carter of Pennsylvania State University, is on a short tour before the art works take up permanent residence at Penn State where Smith studied architecture as an undergraduate. The project was partially funded with a grant from USF’s College of The Arts, major support from the Penn State Department of Theatre and private donations.

For more information about the Oliver Smith exhibit, contact CNCF on 949.5477 or email [email protected].

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