April 11-17, 2002
High School Reunion
High school art shows seldom attract much attention, but the Central High School alumni exhibit at Chestnut Hill's Woodmere Art Museum is something quite different. In this show, works by 47 alumni from the mid-19th century to the present can be seen. Some of Philadelphia's most acclaimed artists, it turns out, are Central grads. Thomas Eakins, William Trost Richards and John F. Sloan got their start there. So did Julius Thiengen Block, Arthur B. Carles, Paul Keene, Seymour Mednick and many more.
When Central opened its doors in 1836, it was the first high school in Pennsylvania. Local taxpayers weren't sure it was necessary and only approved its creation by a slim margin. School administrators wanted to make a good show of preparing its students for "useful industries." They hired Rembrandt Peale (son of Charles Willson Peale) as their first professor of writing and drawing. It was thought that drawing and writing were "twin sisters" and the "handmaid of useful and ornamental arts." Over the decades many Central grads went on to attend the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts to extend their knowledge and artistic skills.
Concurrent with the alumni exhibit is a show by present-day Central High students, a testimony that the school is still producing many talented artists.
Central High Alumni Show, opens Sun., April 14, runs through July 7, Woodmere Art Museum, 9201 Germantown Ave., 215-247-0476, www.woodmereartmuseum.org.