Dr. Ellen “Aileen” Curtin’s first art exhibition was a long time coming.
As in most of her life.
In April, Curtin, a professor of education, held an exhibition, Memories and Moments in Time, at the C. E. Hyde Gallery in the Law Sone Fine Arts Center.
The 89 paintings showed a side of Curtin that, she said, her Wesleyan colleagues don’t see.
“I believe that most are shocked to realize that I am doing this,” Curtin said.
But although she enjoyed the experience, she said she does not know when she will exhibit again, if ever.
“It took me 15-17 years to accumulate all the paintings for this exhibit and who knows where I will be in another 17 years?” she wrote in an email.
All the money raised by sales of the art will go to Theatre Wesleyan, she said.
“I have always loved Theater Wesleyan,” Curtin said. “I have come to every production since I have worked here.”
The collection is inspired by Curtin’s life growing up in rural Ireland.
“I have longing desire to go home so everything I paint is inspired by Ireland,” said Curtin, 52, who grew up in County Limerick near the town of Abbeyfeale, south of the city of Limerick. “The images are different scenes from where I grew up in Ireland. I get a little emotional by these and I am delighted that people are interested.”
Curtin has painted many pieces but her favorite is Journey Home.
“It reminds me of home,” Curtin said. “I grew up on a farm in the southwestern part of Ireland with cows and sheep and lots of greenery. All of these are inspired from scenes in different parts of Ireland.”
Curtin began painting as a child but didn’t “formally” begin until age 18, as she began teaching training courses in Limerick, she said in an email. She never had formal training in art.
“I never had the opportunity to work with art in the Irish education system,” Curtin said. “Once I became an elementary teacher I started learning and exploring art with the children. Before that I never really had an opportunity to paint.”
Curtin began viewing art as a form of expression.
“During that time I felt passion towards it,” she said. “I started realizing that maybe I did have a talent in art so I started taking classes at the College of Art & Design in Dublin.”
Curtin, who lived in Ireland until she was 27, immigrated to the United States in 1989 and took time off from her art to focus on her academic work. She received her doctorate in curriculum and instruction with a minor in educational administration from the University of North Texas in 2002.
Around 2004 she was inspired to resume painting after seeing an advertisement for an art class called Brush & Palette in a recreation center in Hurst, where she lives.
“I wanted to paint again,” Curtin said. “Every Tuesday since 2004 I’ve been meeting with a group of people in Hurst and I’ve just been inspired to continue painting.”
Curtin was encouraged by her husband, Bruce Wertz, to show her art.
“My husband said it was time to let other people see my work .I decided this would be the best way for me let go and also help Theater Wesleyan,” Curtin said.
Dr. Elizabeth Battles, a professor of English, said she had no idea that Curtin paints but was interested to learn more.
“It’s important that we see what’s important to us outside of school and something that is mindful. So to find out she has been painting is really neat but not so surprising,” Battles said.
Curtin said that the exhibit would not have been possible without the help of the students and faculty who hung the paintings.
“Theater Wesleyan has been very gracious,” she said. “I don’t know if I will ever do another exhibit like this. This may be the first and last. Either way, this has been a great opportunity.”