Gene Locklear, one of the region’s most successful artists and athletes, began work October 17 on an art academy for young people at The University of North Carolina at Pembroke.
Artist Gene Locklear speaks to an audience at his exhibition and sale at UNCP.
A San Diego, Cal., resident, Locklear and UNCP’s Foundation staged an exhibition and art sale at the Givens Performing Arts Center to raise money for the project, which would train some of the state’s youngest art talent.
“I’ve been able to fulfill all my dreams in life as a baseball player and as an artist,” Locklear said. “I still have dreams.”
“I cherish the experiences I had growing up in Pembroke and treasure the land, people and rich heritage of the area,” he said. “It is appropriate to come back here to the University because this is where I had my first art show at age six or seven.”
“Our hope is that new generations will be inspired, as I was, by this special place, its precious legacy and the rich cultural experiences it has to offer,” he said.
The show and sale, which featured 22 of Locklear’s original works, was the result of collaboration between Locklear and Chancellor Allen C. Meadors. Locklear said he hoped it would become an annual event.
One painting, “A Beautiful Dancer,” was auctioned for $500. Two golf umbrellas, with original signed sketches, were auctioned for $475.
On display were Southern and Western landscapes and American Indian and sports artwork. Locklear’s work has been displayed at the White House, the Pentagon, sporting events and in many public and commercial buildings.
At the reception – Dr. Martin Brooks, seated and Jesse Oxendine
Before taking up art full time, Locklear enjoyed a 10-year career in Major League Baseball, playing with the Cincinnati Reds, New York Yankees and finally the San Diego Padres. He was known as an outstanding hitter, batting .321 in 1975 for the Padres.
Several of Locklear’s oldest friends, including Larry Tatman of California, Glenn Kupferman of Florida and Dr. Martin Brooks of Pembroke, were on hand for the exhibition.
“Gene Locklear is a man who works with his hands, his heart and his soul,” Dr. Brooks said. “I’ve known Gene all his life, and he has stayed focused on the talent you see here today.”
Local artist and retired banker Lee Warner said Locklear has continued to grow as an artist.
“I met him when he was playing baseball. He’s an old friend and fellow artist,” Warner said. “Some of his pieces are intriguing because they mean so much to us in Robeson County.”
“He has done well and continued to work on his talent,” he said. “Gene has branched out too into sports art which is very popular.”
Ben Chavis, a Robeson native who traveled from Oakland, Cal., to the exhibit, has been a collector of Locklear’s art for many years.
At the reception - Lumberton artist Lee Werner (left) with wife, Mary, with Ben Chavis, holding his son, Ben Henry, and Gene Locklear.
“We go way back, but Gene asked us to come today, and I could not resist,” Chavis said. “I probably have more of his art than anyone. It means a lot to me.”
Walter Bull, committee member for the exhibition and sale, said the purpose of the art academy is to identify and provide training for young North Carolina artists.
“When I first met with Chancellor Meadors on this project, I thought it was a great idea,” Bull said. Gene Locklear has come back to his roots.”
“Gene’s idea is to find those young folks – seven, eight and nine-year olds – who have native talent and to nurture that talent,” he said. “The objective of the art academy is to establish a camp to give young people a chance to work with professional artists who will encourage them.”
Members of the art exhibition sale advisory committee included Dr. Martin Brooks and Arlie Jacobs of Pembroke, Judy Lowery and Jesse Oxendine of Charlotte, Breeden Blackwell of Fayetteville and Vance Houston of Rock Hill, S.C.
For more information, please contact Teresa Oxendine, director of donor relations, at (910) 521- 6213 or email@example.com.