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January 27, 2002

CW receives gift of 24 Mattie Lou O’Kelley folk art paintings

The Colonial Williamsburg Foundation has received a generous gift of 24 paintings by noted American folk artist Mattie Lou O’Kelley from Dr. and Mrs. T. Marshall Hahn Jr. of Blacksburg, Va. The collection of colorful and highly patterned paintings was created by O’Kelley from 1987-89 to illustrate her children’s book, "Moving to Town." O’Kelley is one of the most popular and best-known American folk artists today. Currently, the gift from Dr. and Mrs. Hahn is valued at nearly $700,000.

In 1995, Dr. Hahn loaned the paintings to Colonial Williamsburg’s Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Folk Art Museum for a six-month exhibition entitled "‘Moving’ with Mattie Lou O’Kelley." The Hahns are long-standing donors to Colonial Williamsburg and belong to both the Raleigh Tavern Society and Friends of the Colonial Williamsburg Collections.

"This is one of the most important and beautiful collections of folk art paintings in the country, and we are grateful to the Hahns for this generous gift to Colonial Williamsburg," said Colin G. Campbell, president and chairman of the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation. "Mattie Lou O’Kelley’s pictures are delightful not only because of their inherent artistic qualities but also because of their whimsical recollections of past times."

The Hahns were among the first collectors to recognize the talents of the reclusive artist and took a great personal interest in her life. So impressed were they by her works that after O’Kelley had created the first two paintings of her "Moving to Town" series, they agreed to purchase the rest. It took O’Kelley several years to paint all 24.

"I am delighted that Colonial Williamsburg will help to bring O’Kelley’s works the widespread recognition they so richly deserve by making them available to a broad audience," said Dr. Hahn. "Colonial Williamsburg and its museums provide an unparalleled living history lesson that ought to be mandatory for every American."

Marshall Hahn holds a B.S. in physics from the University of Kentucky and a Ph.D. in physics from Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He served in the U.S. Navy prior to becoming the head of the physics department, and later president, of Virginia Tech. Later, he became CEO of Georgia Pacific.

Dr. and Mrs. Hahn also have given funds previously to Colonial Williamsburg that were used to purchase the historically important African-American drawing, "Animals and Tree" by Bill Traylor, a former slave from Montgomery, Ala.

Media Contact:
Sophia Hart
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