Charles Cary Rumsey (1879-1922), Bronze casts of Charles Cary Rumsey's Olympic Games Friezes at the University at Buffalo; Donated by Meibohm Fine Arts

Charles Cary Rumsey (1879-1922), Bronze casts of Charles Cary Rumsey's Olympic Games Friezes at the University at Buffalo; Donated by Meibohm Fine Arts

Charles Cary Rumsey's Olympic Games Friezes Still Inspire

Sunday, August 12, 2012

The Olympic Games have brought Americans a great sense of pride, for our athletes’ accomplishments and for our peaceful connection to countries around the globe. In that spirit, I would like to demonstrate how the Olympic Games have been an inspiration for many generations. A case in point is Charles Cary Rumsey (1879-1922), who designed the decorative, polychromed cement friezes for the Isaac L. Rice Memorial Stadium in the early 1920s using the Olympic Games as his featured subject. The stadium was conceived in 1919 when Julia Rice offered the City of New York $1,000,000 to erect a recreational facility in memory of her late husband, Isaac Rice (1850-1915), who was a lawyer, financier and inventor. Rice Stadium was located in the southern end of Pelham Bay Park in the Bronx. In addition to Rumsey’s friezes, a limestone statue by Louis St. Lannes titled, American Boy, was installed on a pedestal at the top of the grandstand and covered by a pedimented canopy, seeming as if he stepped out of the frieze. Rice Stadium was razed in 1989.

In 1938, Mary Harriman Rumsey, the artist’s widow, donated her husband’s plaster casts for the friezes to the University of Buffalo, where they were installed in Clark Gymnasium. They were removed in 1993, repaired, and as used as models to create bronze casts by the Casting Institute of the State University of New York at Buffalo’s Art Department. The three bas-relief bronze sculptures were installed near Alumni Arena on UB's North Campus.

Nancy Weekly
Head of Collections/The Charles Cary Rumsey curator at the Burchfield Penney Art Center

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Nancy Weekly is the Head of Collections and the Charles Cary Rumsey Curator for the Burchfield Penney Art Center, the world’s only museum dedicated to American watercolor master Charles E. Burchfield and artists of the Buffalo Niagara region. She also serves as an adjunct lecturer in Museum Studies for the Department of History and Social Studies Education at Buffalo State College

Since September 1981, Ms. Weekly has organized exhibitions on an extensive array of subjects including historic and contemporary art, photography, craft art and decorative arts, with a specialization in Western New York artists. She is recognized as the world’s leading expert on Charles E. Burchfield, having organized nationally touring exhibitions of his work with accompanying catalogs, as well as a wide range of publications. She assisted Robert Gober and UCLA’s Hammer Museum staff in developing Heat Waves in a Swamp: The Paintings of Charles Burchfield, and contributed an essay on Burchfield’s unusual Conventions for Abstract Thoughts. Her essay, Color and Sound: Charles E. Burchfield and the Question of Synesthesia was published in the exhibition catalog,Sensory Crossovers : Synesthesia in American Art. Her most recent essay, Storyboard: The Sexual Politics of Jackie Felix, appears in the catalog for a retrospective exhibition of Felix’s provocative art that represents topical social issues, such as female identity, popular culture, and sexual politics within the context of feminism and late 20th-early 21st-century art.