BOONE, N.C. — Appalachian State University’s Turchin Center for the Visual Arts (TCVA) has new names for two of its galleries, honoring longtime arts leaders and philanthropists Mary Bertini Bickers, Christine Petti and Edith S. Peiser.
“These gifts are important investments in the future of the Turchin Center and its advancement of App State’s mission,” said Hank Foreman, App State’s vice chancellor of external affairs and strategic initiatives, who was also the founding director and curator of the Turchin Center. “When we opened the Turchin Center 20 years ago, we had a vision to make the arts accessible through engaging with the community. The legacy of these women will ensure this vision continues.”
“We are proud to name galleries after these remarkable individuals in recognition of their tremendous and ongoing investments in App State and the Turchin Center,” said Denise Ringler, App State’s director of arts engagement and cultural resources. “They are helping to ensure a bright financial future for the Turchin Center and sustaining it for decades to come.”
The Mary Bickers Family Gallery
The Mezzanine Gallery is now known as the Mary Bickers Family Gallery, in honor of Bickers, who recently made a significant gift to the TCVA endowment.
When asked why she supports the arts, Bickers said, “For me, art isn’t just visual. Of course I enjoy viewing art, but I also appreciate visual art that evokes a physical or sensory experience — a feeling of being part of the landscape, experiencing a certain smell or even a memory that the image may bring up for me.”
A Charlotte native, Bickers serves as president and founder of Bickers Consulting Group, an Atlanta-based advisory firm. She has more than 40 years of experience as a specialized business consultant who guides clients through processes such as mergers and acquisitions, estate and business succession planning and buy-sell/shareholders agreements.
Philanthropy is at the heart of Bickers’ service. She supports organizations that include the Women’s Fund of the Blue Ridge, the Griffin-Spalding Historical Society, Stepping Stones School, the High Museum of Art, the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra, the Metro Atlanta Chamber of Commerce, Greensboro’s Humane Society of the Piedmont and the North Carolina Citizens for Business and Industry.
The Christine Petti and Edith S. Peiser Gallery
Gallery B also bears a new name: the Christine Petti and Edith S. Peiser Gallery. Petti’s gift included funds for the Turchin Center’s endowment as well as arts education programming through the Turchin Center and App State’s Schaefer Center for the Performing Arts.
Petti, an avid watercolor artist, came to the High Country in 1979 with her husband, Dr. Alfonso Petti. She previously served as the head nurse in the pediatric ward of a regional hospital in Florida and later became a nurse practitioner. She serves on a number of boards and supports charitable causes from coast to coast, including the Seby B. Jones Regional Cancer Center, the Appalachian Regional Healthcare Foundation, the Ronald McDonald Family Room at Ventura County Medical Center and the Women’s Fund of the Blue Ridge.
Petti began to paint while undergoing chemotherapy for cancer in 1999.
“I was taught by a friend,” she recalls, “and had no prior art experience. I thought it would be a disaster, but I found it to be relaxing and restorative, and it continues to be part of my life to this day.” She believes that everyone should have access to the beauty and power of art, and that students of all ages can learn through art, which provides important insights into history, humankind, and the world around us.
For Petti, this gift is the most recent in a long-standing legacy of investment in App State. In 2021, Petti contributed a significant, multiyear pledge in response to a $1 million challenge gift from Nancy and Neil Schaffel — both of whom supported the endowment fund for An Appalachian Summer Festival, App State’s annual celebration of the performing and visual arts.
At Petti’s request, the gallery is also named for her dear friend, Edith “Edie” Peiser, of Highland Beach, Florida, who played a pivotal leadership role during the Turchin Center’s creation and development.
“From the very beginning of our work to create a world-class visual arts center, Edie was a strong and positive voice for the important role that art plays within the lives of individuals, a university and a community,” said Foreman. “It is wonderful to see Edie — for whom the visual arts have been so fully intertwined throughout her life — honored with a naming at the Turchin Center.”
Works on display
The exhibition “Altered Environments/Tidalectics: April Flanders, Guest Curator” is on display in the Petti–Peiser Gallery through May 6.
The 20th Annual Appalachian Mountain Photography Celebration is on display in the Bickers Family Gallery through June 3.
The Turchin Center’s 20th Anniversary Celebration will feature new works in the renamed galleries, on display beginning Friday, May 5, from 5 to 8 p.m.
The celebration, which is scheduled in conjunction with downtown Boone’s First Friday festivities, is free and open to the public, and will include live music and refreshments. Attendees will also have opportunities to meet exhibiting artists and to share their favorite memories and reflections on the past two decades of Turchin Center exhibition, education and outreach programming in the visual arts.
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About the Turchin Center for the Visual Arts
Located on 423 W. King St. at the crossroads of campus and community, the Turchin Center for the Visual Arts at Appalachian State University engages visitors in dynamic and accessible exhibition, education, outreach and collection programs. These programs inspire and support a lifelong engagement with the visual arts and create opportunities for participants to learn more about themselves and the world around them. Learn more at https://tcva.appstate.edu/about/visit.
About Appalachian State University
As the premier public undergraduate institution in the Southeast, Appalachian State University prepares students to lead purposeful lives. App State is one of 17 campuses in the University of North Carolina System, with a national reputation for innovative teaching and opening access to a high-quality, affordable education for all. The university enrolls more than 21,000 students, has a low student-to-faculty ratio and offers more than 150 undergraduate and 80 graduate majors at its Boone and Hickory campuses and through App State Online. Learn more at https://www.appstate.edu.