Mississippi University for Women's art gallery has always had a special place in Larry Feeney's heart; the retired art professor is hoping that it will have the same effect on others thanks to an endowment established in his honor.
The Larry Feeney Endowment for the Eugenia Summer Gallery was announced at The W's homecoming this spring.
"This is a way we can keep getting some funding for the art department," he said. "And indirectly, it will help all students, the whole university and the larger community through workshops, expanding the permanent collection and visiting artists."
His passion for giving back through the arts was made possible through the efforts of his daughters, Katherine Feeney Munson of Columbus, and Elizabeth Richardson, who lives in St. Louis. Both graduated from The W and spent many days as young girls on the campus.
"Very often my father and I will run into an old student of his, and they will tell me that my sister and I were their 'models' during a figure drawing class because we had fallen asleep on a couch somewhere. That always makes me smile," Munson said.
Munson said her father often talked about how he wanted to help the art department; however he was never clear about how that was supposed to look.
Her sister encouraged her father to act now and do something he could see concrete results from. The endowment quickly presented itself as the best option.
"Once that was settled upon, I had the idea to have a retrospective show coinciding with Homecoming for the announcement of it. Then my father did all the hard work of creating all the beautiful art for the show. All of us as a family really worked together on this project to execute it, and it is something we all take great pride and joy in."
Shawn Dickey, chair of the Department of Art & Design, said, "Larry's impact has been impressive. As a faculty member for 35 years and many of those years our gallery director, he has been an integral part of the arts at The W, in Columbus and the surrounding region. Larry is such an outgoing, social person, whose stories, memories and recollections of students and artists are the stuff of legend among the faculty."
Feeney said the arts add value to a community--socially, culturally and economically. "People don't understand how the arts can help a community grow." He recalls a man visiting the gallery about 20 years ago. "He was coming through Columbus interviewing for a job. He was just checking on what kind of places he and his family could go to find art and music."
It was in 1968, that Feeney, a native of Davenport, Iowa, was first introduced to The W's gallery, which is now known as the Eugenia Summer Gallery. He joined the art department, where he would teach calligraphy, drawing and painting for 35 years and served as The W's gallery director for eight years.
"I walked into the gallery in July. It had a fine art collection at that time and they had put together a fine representative Mississippi collection," he said. "The gallery struck me right then."
And now more than 40 years later, the gallery still brings a smile to his face. "This is an impressive little place," he said.