Chicago is the locale where one of WFU’s most distinguished alumni, A. R. Ammons, is currently being honored with an exhibit that includes 20 of his watercolor paintings dating from the late ‘70s. The exhibition opening occurred at the headquarters of the Poetry Foundation on January 9, and will continue on display until April 30.

Guests observe a collection of 20 watercolor paintings by A. R. Ammons at the Poetry Foundation in Chicago. The paintings are from the private collection of Emily Wilson, a WFU alumna and close friend of the late Ammons. The exhibit is on display from January 9 to April 30.

Poetry Foundation’s Winter/Spring 2020 events publication features Ammons artwork on the cover.

I had the pleasure of attending the exhibition opening by a generous $1,000 donation to ZSR from Emily Wilson to fund my trip.

Some of the groundwork for the event dates back as early as April 2019, when Wilson reached out to ZSR and inquired to have a selection of her Ammons’ watercolor paintings digitized. Wilson is a WFU alumna and was a close friend of the late Ammons. She has over 500 of his paintings in her private collection.

The following July of last year, Katherine Litwin and Fred Sasaki visited ZSR from Chicago to handpick some of Wilson’s paintings for the exhibit. Litwin is the library director and exhibitions cocurator at the Poetry Foundation. Sasaki is the art director and exhibitions cocurator. The ZSR visit also included Elizabeth Mills, an Ammons scholar and friend. That August, we digitized a total of 29 paintings that they selected during their visit.

Some of the digitized copies of the paintings were used for promotional materials, such as the Poetry Foundation’s Winter/Spring 2020 event’s publication, and a broadside comprised of an Ammons’ painting and poem that was given to guests of the January event.

The exhibition opening kicked off with a welcome by Litwin and Sasaki, and followed by a presentation by Mills. Mills explained how she first met Ammons at an art festival in Chapel Hill. She later discussed his poetry, the evolution of his art and the distinct elements of his art style.

The event concluded with a reception where guests had the opportunity to view the exhibit, speak with Mills about the paintings, and browse the Poetry Foundation library.