Sheldon Tapley Art Reception honoring Catharine Spragens

March 4, 2018
By BCPL

The Boyle County Public Library will unveil an oil painting by Sheldon Tapley at a public reception on Sunday, March 4, 2018 at 3:00 p.m. The expansive and colorful work depicts local landscape. It is a new acquisition for the library’s collection.

The painting was donated by Tapley in honor of Catharine Spragens, former first lady of Centre College, who lived a remarkably active life until her death at 96 on March 26, 2016.

The artist’s exhibitions at Tatistcheff Gallery in New York City established him as painter of national reputation, whose works are in public and private collections across the country. A New Yorker review praised his work as “intelligently composed and executed with polished skill.” His works have been published in American Artist, The Artist’s Magazine and New American Paintings, and featured in the documentary Looking At Painting, produced by Kentucky Educational Television. He is a recipient of an Al Smith Fellowship, awarded by the Kentucky Arts Council.



Born in Venezuela to British parents—Ron and Sylvia—Tapley was raised in Europe and North America. He and his wife, Ann Silver, are longtime residents of Danville. Their children, Rachel and Peter, attended Danville High School and Centre College. The artist’s father now resides here, too.

Tapley has taught at Centre College for thirty-five years, where he has been awarded a Cantrell Professorship and the Kirk Award for Excellence in Teaching; he is currently Stodghill Professor of Painting and Drawing. Tapley is a Phi Beta Kappa graduate of Grinnell College and earned his M.F.A. from the University of Nebraska at Lincoln. He loves painting and drawing with his students in the studio, and outdoors around Danville. “Working with students, seeing their skill and confidence grow, is very rewarding. I stay in touch with many alumni. It is a great pleasure watching their careers develop.”

Tapley's gift honors Catharine Smallwood Spragens, Centre's longest-serving first lady and wife of Thomas A. Spragens, President of Centre College from 1957 to 1981. Mrs. Spragens, a Mississippi native, grew up in Oxford near William Faulkner’s home, where she listened to ghost stories by the Nobel Prize winner.  She later recalled “how genial Mr. Faulkner was with children and how distant he was with adults.”  In 1975 she arranged for a Centre Faulkner seminar to travel to Oxford, Mississippi, to meet with the major Faulkner scholars.  Professor Mark Lucas, who currently teaches that seminar and was a Centre student at that time, recalls that, to him, President and Mrs. Spragens “represented a kind of high-minded patrician grace that was attractive and inspiring.”

Mrs. Spragens was a constant reader who played a prominent role in many Danville institutions, including the public library.  As a longtime member of the Amanda O. Rodes Book Club, she regularly reviewed books that were then donated to the library.  Several of her relatives will attend the March 4th reception.