Since the time of Dr. Bob Jones Jr., an appreciation for visual and performing arts has permeated the University’s programs and events. Hampton III Gallery, a local art gallery founded by BJU alumni, extends this legacy to the Greenville community.
A Summer Project
The gallery began as a project of ministerial class director Dr. Richard Rupp and art faculty member Darell Koons. “(Rupp) was always interested in the arts,” said his daughter, Sandy Rupp, current gallery director. “Occasionally, he would be on the stage in a Shakespearean play. He was also involved in the film productions on campus.”
In the summer of 1970, Rupp had a part in Unusual Film’s Flame in the Wind. The film required many in the cast to grow facial hair in a time when beards were considered countercultural. For this reason, Rupp refrained from his usual summer preaching rounds.
Knowing Rupp would need a summer job, friend and neighbor Darell Koons suggested that they open a temporary art gallery. They would exhibit and sell art by three prominent BJU art professors—Koons, Emery Bopp and Carl Blair.
The men rented a small space in a shopping center in exchange for some of Koons’s paintings. Jay Bopp—current chair of the Division of Art + Design and Emery Bopp’s son—remembers the beginnings of the gallery. “Since the storefront (was on) Wade Hampton Boulevard, and there were three artists being represented,” he said, “they all decided to name the venture ‘Hampton III Gallery.’ ”
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After a successful first summer, Rupp and Koons chose to keep the gallery open through the rest of the year. “They kept it open into the autumn months, the winter, the spring, the following summer, and now for 50 years,” said Bopp. In 1972, Rupp decided to upgrade to an actual gallery space. He purchased the gallery’s current land and built the Gallery Center, with Hampton III as its anchor.
A Southern Portrait
Inspired by the images of the South, which the three university faculty contributed, Hampton III Gallery became a spotlight for Southern artists. In the ‘70s, the artwork of Bopp, Koons and Blair received the recognition of museums, competitions and juried exhibitions across the South. After joining the former Guild of South Carolina Artists, the three befriended and collaborated with other South Carolinians.
“They’d say, ‘Well, who’s going to take all the South Carolina works to the exhibition this week?’ And so, they would rearrange their schedule so that they would all help each other to participate in these professional exhibitions and juried shows,” said Sandy Rupp. “So, when the gallery moved into this space, they wanted to include some of those artists.” The works of artists such as Leo Twiggs, Jeanet Dreskin and John Acorn gradually joined those of Hampton III.
The gallery’s relationship with BJU artists continues. The walls occasionally feature the works of alumna and former BJU arts education director Kathy Bell, former art faculty member Harrell Whittington and alumnus Jim Brooks. The works of Dave Appleman, former chair of the Division of Art at BJU, are part of the gallery’s regular rotation. In addition, BJU’s Division of Art + Design places interns with the gallery almost every semester.
A Lifelong Pursuit
The gallery began as a temporary project. But for Sandy Rupp, art became her life. She worked at the gallery as a teenager and would manage it during college summer breaks. While pursuing her master’s degree at BJU, “I worked at the Museum (& Gallery) as a student for a short time,” she said. “And then, of course, I had the exposure to the classical music and the Shakespearean plays and to the operas. In some ways, it was a very high-end art education.”
Transitioning into gallery director seemed like a natural step. Recently, Rupp bought out the gallery owners. “The artists were owners, and of course my father, and then there was another—Dr. (Edward) Panosian—who was also on faculty. I ended up buying all the stock and having it as my gallery,” she said.
Jay Bopp added that “under the direction of Sandy Rupp, the gallery has grown from being a local gallery to a regional SC gallery, and even to attract some national artists.”
Rupp hopes to continue the gallery’s mission of education. With every new exhibit featuring a living artist, the gallery hosts “Coffee and Conversation.” The free event allows the community to interact with the artist. “The artist is here, but it’s not a lecture,” said Rupp. “It’s an interaction with people discussing their viewpoints, what are they seeing in the work, you know, how are they perceiving the compositions.”
The history, pieces and arts education of Hampton III are links to BJU. Visit the gallery and help continue the University’s art appreciation.