Orval Reeves Art gallery shows cultured side of Rolla

Orval Reeves Art gallery shows cultured side of Rolla

Maia Bond, Arts & Entertainment Editor

The house across the street from the Rolla High School, concealed by towering bamboo, has stayed a quiet business for 30 years. In passing it seems like an average old home but look closer and the black cats sitting on the porch steps and the eccentric green front door tell a different story. The Orval Reeves Art Gallery is art in itself. Jam packed with art from floor to ceiling, the shelves are lined with everything from glassware to jewelry to bronze statues. Paintings and drawings cover practically every inch of wall space and stack against each other like old records. Orval Reeves himself guided me through the overwhelming amount of incredible art as he explained just how he got interested in all of it.

“I think it was just inside of me. When I was a super young man my mom noticed my talent so she started buying me paint by numbers to start with, and I did those. I did the Last Supper and ballerinas and stallions leaping,” Reeves said.

Reeves stopped every so often to tell an anecdote about one artist or one piece. He could tell someone an artist’s complete history in 30 seconds flat without blinking an eye. His white hair was not what showed his age, it was how much he knew about every piece in the vast gallery. His eyes lit up reminiscing on past years.

“I went out to art school in Seattle, in 1970, and I went to a school for commercial art and advertising, and then in ‘76 I moved back to Rolla and I bought this place. Myself, I went to a school in Seattle called Burnley School of Professional Art. It was for advertising and it was basically a 2 year program and I got out in 2 years and I stayed in Seattle for a while because Seattle is just a beautiful city and it oozes art,” Reeves said.

In between answering questions about the paintings, Reeves stopped in a room to explain his life further.

“I absolutely love Seattle I would stay in Seattle but it is so expensive I just decided I was tired of the large city and standing in lines to do anything and everything. So I decided to come back here and work on my art. And I do love to paint the Ozarks so that was another draw for me,” Reeves said.

Reeves’ love for painting the Ozarks was clear as some rooms had over a dozen stunning portraits of familiar Missouri scenes. He could explain exactly what colors he used for a specific painting and a thousand more details that would go unnoticed by someone unknowing of art. The art is obviously not strictly his from the mass quantities of it.

“When I first started it, it was for myself. I was showing my pieces and then a lot of my friends from the area who are artists, and artists are probably the worst business people in the world, they just give their stuff away, I said let me help you, I’ll try to sell some of your stuff and I’ll take a small percentage of the sale. So that started about 1978 I guess,” Reeves said.

Still leading through every room, Reeves explained who made pieces, where they were from, what they’re known for, etc. Each room showcases exceeding amounts of creativity and talent hardly recognized enough in the community.

“Right now I think we’ve got about 8 Ozark artists in the gallery. As far as living artists, they are all Missouri artists. I’ve collected some things from artists that have passed away that are famous and they are from all over the world and United States,” Reeves said.

Reeves’ tone shifts from his interested, teacher voice to a much older, experienced voice. His face sinks and he shifts his weight to both feet to bring his height down just a little as he continues through the life story of the building.

“Actually I’m thinking about closing here in about 3 years because I get absolutely no support. I’ve sat in here for 30 years waiting for people to come in and buy art and it just doesn’t happen. Paul and Terry Brewer who own Brewer Science are the biggest contributors to art in Rolla,” Reeves said.

After explaining a set of Native American paintings and leading the way through another room of paintings, jewelry, and bronze, Reeves explains his bittersweet message of a lifelong artist.

“The reason people dont buy art is they really don’t know anything about art. They turn the football lights on at the high school at 3 in the afternoon but I’ll bet money I can walk in that art class and and they barely have money for pencils and paper. If you’re not going to present art to people then they’re not going to know anything about it, then it’s hard for them to relate to it. The arts are very important, you know music and painting and drawing. They don’t seem like it at the time but they really do make you a full person if you go into one of those artistic ventures,” Reeves said.