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From Fayette to the World: The Paintings of Mary Louise (Johnson) Forbes '39 and Anna Mae (Besgrove) Hodge '44

The Ashby-Hodge Gallery of American Art at Central Methodist University is opening a new exhibition June 3 featuring the remarkable artworks of two of the university's well-known alumnae.

Titled "From Fayette to the World: The Paintings of Mary Louise (Johnson) Forbes '39 and Anna Mae (Besgrove) Hodge '44," the exhibition highlights two Fayette-area natives and many of their life-time works, including Fayette and Howard County-area scenes. More than 60 paintings in acrylic, oils and watercolors will be on display through July 12.Forbes - Apple Blossom Time

A reception honoring the artist will be held from 1:30 to 4:30 p.m. opening day, June 3. The gallery is also presenting an "aviary series" of prints and paintings by John James Audubon and other notable wildlife artists. They are part of the Ashby-Hodge permanent collection.

Mary Louise Forbes, currently a resident of Fayette, was born just eight miles southeast of the community. She graduated from the Lawrence J. Daly School in Fayette in 1934 and then attended Central College (CMU), earning her bachelor's degree in English, with a minor in math, in 1939. After graduation, she taught in north Howard County at the one-room Bawker School and later became principal at Cairo, Mo.

During World War II she worked at Weldon Springs at the TNT plant, where she met her husband, Ted Forbes. After the war she taught in the Joliet, Ill., school system. She was in her 50s when she began painting, studying under Erwin Hobby and developing her talents as a landscape artist.

The Forbeses retired to Fayette in 1988 and Mary Louise Forbes became part of the Boonslick Area Art League. Following a period in which she refrained from painting because of health problems, she began painting again two years ago under the direction of Fayette artist Tom Yancey, a retired CMU professor of music and art. In that time, Forbes has completed more than 20 paintings.

Many of Forbes' paintings have been brought together for the first time for presentation in The Ashby-Hodge Gallery exhibition. It will be her first art show in a life that has spanned nine decades.

Hodge - My Country and Its Place in the NationAnna Mae Hodge, a resident of Kansas City, Mo., is a co-founder of The Ashby-Hodge Gallery of American Art at CMU. She grew up in Fayette, where she graduated from high school and also graduated from Central College (CMU) in 1944 with a double major in English and Art.

She later married Central classmate Robert (Bob) Hodge, who went on to become a physician, and the family settled in Kansas City. Her first job was with Hallmark Co. in the art department.

Early on, Anna Mae Hodge was appointed by the Kansas City mayor to the commission to establish the first community center in North Kansas City. And as a member of the Landmarks Commission, she was involved in the historical restoration of the Sexton's Cottage at Union Cemetery. She was also involved in the development of the historic Clay County Heritage Village at Hodge Park.

From 1964 to 1974, she served as liaison with the Kansas City Parks and Recreation Department and the Kansas City Museum for the Line Creek Park Museum in Platte County, which is dedicated to the preservation of the Hopewell Indian Culture.

Hodge has also been active in the restoration of historic houses in Arrow Rock, where she and her husband have a second home. She has also worked with the Historic Arrow Rock Council and Friends of Arrow Rock to promote historic preservation of the community and make it a center for the arts. During these activities, including extensive travel in Central and South American and Europe, she has continued her efforts as a painter.

Anna Mae and Bob Hodge spearheaded the fundraising drive to establish The Ashby-Hodge Gallery of American Art at CMU, which opened in the fall of 1993. Anna Mae has continued to serve on the executive board of the gallery since it opened.

Gallery Curator Joe Geist noted that Fayette has always inspired Hodge in her work as an artist, and he said, "This show is her recognition, her tribute, her thank you to her home town community and college."