By Debbie Dakin
Licking may be a small town, but one really big thing we have here that many larger cities don’t is a wonderful museum. The Texas County Museum of Art and History is located at 112 South Main Street. It became open to the public in March of 2004. The museum became incorporated at the end of the year in 2002 and it took over a year to get the building set up and the first works of art brought here.
The building is owned by former Licking resident, Ron Rennick, who now resides in Florida. In an interview last week, Rennick pointed out the museum itself belongs to the people of Licking. Former Licking Elementary Art Teacher Ellen Reynolds is the Curator and the museum is governed by a Board. Board members consist of John Hood, Brian Friend, who is currently President of the Board, Dan Hatch, Grant Crow, Linda Roberts and Carolyn Wulff.
I spoke with Mr. Rennick and asked him what made him decide to start the museum. “I’ve had the buildings since the early 80s,” said Rennick. “I like to collect art and I thought this would be a good way to give back to the community that I came from. We still have the family farm there and I get back when I can. This was something I could do.”
I asked Rennick where he found his widely varied selection of art. I was surprised and pleased to learn that Rennick not only sells real estate, he also is a certified and licensed auctioneer. In addition he has a gallery in Florida.
“Most of the art I get comes from here in Florida,” said Rennick. “There are many wealthy estates here and I am an auctioneer. Many of these people have traveled and have an extensive collection from all parts of the world. I like to collect art and sometimes it takes me months or even years to work out a deal and get a piece I really want.”
Rennick brings a new shipment to Licking every so often. He tries to pick out things he thinks will spur local interest, such as Native American art. He said it is impossible to pick out his favorites, but noted that he is pleased to have an 18th Century kimono from Japan, a beautiful matador costume that had to be repaired after the bull gored the matador, and even some Pre-Columbian pieces. He laughingly told about a Ku Klux Klan robe that two older ladies brought to him and asked rather sheepishly if he was interested in buying it.
Once the Board was established, one member encouraged Ellen Reynolds to apply for the Curatorship. Reynolds was just retired from being an elementary art teacher and thought it would be interesting. She made up her resume and sent it in. The rest is history.
When asked what her high points of the job are Reynolds replied, “Tuesdays when area artists come in to work. I love it. Everyone is so happy and creative. We have beginners to advanced artists. It is a very encouraging group and we are not a closed group. We welcome new artists of all levels.”
Reynolds also really enjoys when groups of school kids come in. She noted how they are so interested and inquisitive.
The workshops are another feature Reynolds enjoys. “We have such a variety and they are fun.”
I asked Reynolds what her favorite piece in the museum is. “You ask hard questions,” she laughingly replied. “We have one Renoir sketch that is special because it is by Renoir, but I wouldn’t call it the best work of art here. There are just too many to decide.”
Now the museum has more pieces of art than what can be displayed at one time. In 2015 Mr. Rennick brought in a big shipment, which had 105 paintings of various sizes, a large copper statue and several smaller pieces. Everything not on display is inventoried and Reynolds knows its exact size location when they decide to swap out a painting.
The museum also has some items donated by local residents. Reynolds is especially proud of their large collection of older pictures of Licking. These are pictures of old businesses and buildings that bring back fond memories to many natives of Licking.
Mr. Rennick has also given the Annex to go with the museum. To date, four productions have been presented there by the Licking Community Theater. Reynolds noted that they are looking forward to the group’s next production.
“We currently have about 40 members who support us financially,” explained Reynolds. “They donate in varying degrees and we appreciate every one of them.”
Reynolds noted that she is blessed with an outstanding volunteer in Sandy Campbell. Ellen calls her “her right hand gal” who she joins forces with to come up with various ideas. And Sandy takes care of all the computer issues for the museum and works as a stand-in for Ellen when needed.
Projects targeted for the museum this year include getting a new roof and improving the lighting in the building. Mr. Rennick is currently seeking someone to repair the roof, and the museum will be working with Intercounty on the lighting issue.
The museum has various projects to help make money to keep it running smoothly. Every year they hold their “cookies by the pound sale” on the day of the Christmas parade. They have a silent auction each year around Rodeo time. Also on Rodeo Saturday, the graduating senior class Underground Railroad quilt that they made in sixth grade was auctioned off with all proceeds going to the museum. In the past they held two bluegrass concerts and had pie auctions. Other interesting events held at the museum are some book signings, and each year in March the season is opened with a featured artist reception.
We must not forget the Book Nook located in the back room of the museum. Friends of the Licking Library have a huge selection of books of interest to all ages and tastes. Get fabulous reading at very cheap prices and the money goes to help improve our library.
If you have not visited this remarkable Licking venue, you should take time to do so. The museum is open Mondays and Tuesdays from 11 a.m. until 5 p.m. You will be amazed at the selection of art displayed. So thank you to Mr. Ron Rennick who helped to make our marvelous museum possible.