Pictured above – Visitors at Tech’s Appalachian Center for Craft gaze at the newly-dedicated painting titled “Reminiscences” by the late Sally Crain-Jager

Reminiscences is described as an autobiographical abstract

Smithville – Tennessee Tech University’s Appalachian Center for Craft has new artwork to greet visitors when they enter the lobby: a painting titled “Reminiscences” by the late Sally Crain-Jager.

Sally was a member of Tech’s fine arts faculty from 1967 to 2001. During her tenure, she was instrumental in developing Tech’s Bachelor of Art Education degree and Bachelor of Fine Arts in painting degree. She also managed the Joan Derryberry Art Gallery and served as interim director of the Craft Center.

Kim Winkle, director of the School of Art, Craft and Design and the Appalachian Center for Craft, says when Sally’s husband Bob Jager mentioned donating the painting to the university, she knew the perfect place to display it: a large, prominent wall in the Craft Center’s lobby.

“Sally had a warm and inviting personality,” Winkle said. “I think her painting in the lobby is another way of greeting people into the Craft Center. We’re so honored to be able to feature it and have a piece of Sally with us each day.”

Reminiscences is a large-scale painting comprised of nine panels, and Bob describes it as an autobiographical abstract.

“It’s Sally’s story in a painting,” he said.

Bob explains that Sally liked to include portals – doors and windows – in her paintings. Reminiscences also includes what, at first glance, may appear as dark smudges but they are actually shadows of Sally’s family. Finally, the colors represent the Oklahoma plains where Sally grew up. Bob says Sally’s paintings convey her personality.

“She loved people,” he said. “She loved teaching. She loved sharing her knowledge with others. Even now, I’ll be in the grocery store and one of her former students will come up to me and say, ‘Mr. Jager, I just wanted to tell you how much I miss her.’ Sally loved life tremendously, and it’s in her paintings. I can’t think of a painting of hers that has any negative connotation. It’s all about creativity, life and joy.”

Sally and Bob met at a faculty meeting. Bob jokes it is the best thing he ever got out of a faculty meeting.

The two married in 1993. Bob was a member of Tech’s music faculty, and the two shared a love of the arts. Sally died in 2014, but Bob says he is grateful that people continue to appreciate her art.

Sally’s painting was formally dedicated at the Craft Center Nov. 19, and Bob recalls seeing the painting displayed there for the first time.

“It’s on the wall as you come in the front door, and the neat thing about it is that right across from the painting are windows where natural light shines in,” he said. “The painting really glows.”

Bob said he was able to share a special moment with his late wife at the dedication.

“It was toward the end of the event, and people were starting to leave and things had quieted down,” Bob recalled. “I looked up at the painting in its new home and said, ‘What do you think, honey?’ I know she was there for that.”

Winkle says that although Sally has passed, her presence and impact remain strong at the Craft Center and in the Upper Cumberland arts community.

 “She loved this community and the people in it and of course, Tennessee Tech,” said Bob. “She enriched this community – both the university community and Cookeville itself. For an artist, there’s nothing better that can be said than this: She left the earth a better place.”

Photo courtesy of Tennessee Tech.

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