“ANY VACANT wall is an opportunity to put up art,” collector Larry Bassett said. And while his home’s walls are full of paintings, he has not stopped there. The results of his work can be seen throughout Lynchburg.
It all started when he moved into Riverviews Artspace 20 years ago. Living next to artists and art studios prompted him to wonder what he could do to support the artist community.
“I saw some things, and I liked some things, and I thought, well, to the extent that I could afford it, I would buy some of the art from the local artists,” Bassett said. “Then I just sort of got the urge. I was looking at things, and every time I looked at something, I would be shopping.”
Bassett said his whole collection easily numbers in the hundreds, and he likes every one of them. Almost all of them have involved a relationship with an artist and often a memory that goes with the painting.
“Every painting has a story,” Bassett said. “I have 600 stories of all this art.”
Bassett became known as someone who would buy from local artists, and eventually, his collection was exhibited for a month in the art gallery at Riverview. Bassett said the experience of having people come and look at it prompted him to ask the gallery’s curator about hanging the art in human service organizations around town.
“It looked terrific. I mean, it was really exciting to me to have people come and look at it,” Bassett said. “I did some work with human services. I was kind of a community organizer, and I said, ‘Maybe we can talk to these places and see if they would like to display some of this art collection.’”
Now, pieces of Bassett’s local art collection can be found at Rush Homes, Roads to Recovery, Lynchburg Human Services, and Lynchburg’s courthouse, as well as many other locations across the city — but it doesn’t stop there.
Much of Bassett’s remaining local collection has been promised to Heritage High School, and Bassett wanted to replace some of the art that would be going out. However, the local art was not taken as quickly as he had expected, and he ended up with several replica pieces on top of his local collection.
Bassett said he didn’t want to have a closet full of art, so he decided to start giving it away.
“There’s no point in having art stacked up where people can’t see it,” Bassett said. “I had probably 50 or 60 people come and take away some.”
Bassett said the pay was for artists to know they sold something because someone liked it, and for people to be happy to get a painting when they thought they’d never have one. Before, he had given art out to be hung in public spaces, but giving to individuals was different.
“Giving away stuff is a lot of fun, especially if it’s art,” Bassett said. “I was really handing somebody something and saying, ‘Take this home, this is yours forever, no strings attached,’ and that was a marvelous experience.”
Despite his love for art and his support of the artist community, Bassett said he is not an artist and doesn’t even understand how artists go about filling a blank canvas. He said all he does is buy art and put it out in the community where it can be seen by people who may not usually get that experience.
“It makes life more interesting and makes the world a more intriguing and interesting place to see,” Bassett said. “It’s just part of how we operate in the world, by putting up our signs of life.”
There is a direct benefit for artists, as well.
“They have put out something that people are seeing,” Bassett said. “People are seeing it and maybe wondering what it means. Or maybe they’re just marveling at the ability of somebody else doing that, and appreciating the effort of an artist whether you understand art or you don’t, and appreciating the beauty and dynamic presence of something in the world.”
Bassett said he thinks he is done buying, but he hopes others will think about supporting local artists and enjoy learning about art.
“I think I’ve done something that most people don’t do, but I’ve done something that most people can do a little bit of,” Bassett said. “Life is pretty exciting when you have art on your walls.” GN