College of Visual and Performing Arts Stories

"Picturing Harrisonburg" Exhibition Opens at Duke Hall Gallery of Fine Art

Picturing Harrisonburg

July 26, 2017 - Picturing Harrisonburg: Visions of a Shenandoah Valley City Since 1828, the 2017-2018 inaugural exhibition of the Duke Hall Gallery of Fine Art at James Madison University, runs from Aug. 28-Oct. 14, 2017. A collaboration between JMU’s Institute for Visual Studies (IVS) and the Harrisonburg-Rockingham Historical Society, the exhibition is the first of its kind to trace the history and transformation of Harrisonburg over the last two centuries. It includes more than 80 paintings, postcards, maps and photographs, many on display to the public for the first time. The exhibition is part of the larger Picturing Harrisonburg project, which celebrates the city’s history with a variety of events and programming in the fall of 2017.

To accompany the exhibition, IVS director David Ehrenpreis wrote a book of the same name, Picturing Harrisonburg: Visions of a Shenandoah Valley City Since 1828 (GFT Publishing, 2017). According to Ehrenpreis, “tracing how visions of a place shift over time can reveal a community’s values, how they evolved and what they mean. While Harrisonburg has a unique history and distinct character, the challenges it has faced over the past two centuries are familiar to many other communities, towns, and cities. This exhibition offers a new way of understanding how places evolve.”

Harrisonburg has been a vital agricultural, commercial, and political mecca since the 18th century. Today, it is the largest city in the Shenandoah Valley—and an educational epicenter with a metropolitan population exceeding 100,000. But the city’s roots lie in the evolution of the American frontier. Picturing Harrisonburg offers a unique view of how a quintessential American town became a prominent urban place on the American landscape.

The exhibition contains five parts that are ordered chronologically, each focusing on a significant moment in Harrisonburg’s history. Each part also features a distinct set of images, from the first hand-drawn plan of the town, completed in 1828, to the graphic designs and logos of the 21st century. The breadth of these visual materials show how various types of images create news ways of understanding the past and present, and of envisioning the future.


Sept. 1: First Fridays Downtown, Duke Hall Gallery, 5-8 p.m.

Sept. 1: Exhibition, Saved in Pen: Images of Lost Harrisonburg. Drawings by Fred L. Cooper. Massanutten Regional Library, 5-8 p.m.

Sept. 1-29: Exhibition, Looking for Rocktown. Contemporary depictions of Harrisonburg. Arts Council of the Valley.

Sept. 1-29: Exhibition, Harrisonburg: Unfiltered. Twenty-two city residents document their lives using instant photography. Larkin Arts.

Sept. 1-29: Exhibition, Court Square’d. Glimpses of downtown Harrisonburg – 6”x6” format, t-shirts as canvas. Laughing Dog T-Shirts & Gifts.

Sept. 11: Reception, Picturing Harrisonburg: Visions of a Shenandoah Valley City Since 1828. Duke Hall Gallery, 5-7 p.m.

Sept. 19: Opening reception, Who Wore What Here? A century of garments, many worn by residents. JMU’s Institute for Visual Studies, 11 a.m.-1 p.m.

Sept. 19-Oct. 26: Exhibition, Who Wore What Here? A century of garments, many worn by residents. JMU’s Institute for Visual Studies.

Sept. 21: Harrisonburg’s Postcards and Community Vision. Lecture by Scott Suter, Bridgewater College. Harrisonburg-Rockingham Historical Society, 7 p.m.

Oct. 5: The Rural Co-op, Pare Lorentz and the New Deal Documentary in Rockingham. Film, plus a lecture by Shaun Wright, JMU SMAD professor. Massanutten Regional Library, 7 p.m.

Dec. 1: Harrisonburg: The Musical. JMU student musical performance inspired by Harrisonburg history. Court Square Theater, 6 p.m.

Tours will take place in Duke Hall Gallery on Saturdays at 1 p.m. throughout the run of the exhibition and also by appointment. Contact John Ros, Duke Hall Gallery Director, at or (540) 568-6407.

GALLERY INFORMATION:                                                                                
Duke Hall Gallery of Fine Art                                                           
820 South Main Street                                                                       
Harrisonburg, VA 22807                                                                  
(540) 568-6918

Tuesday-Saturday, 11 a.m.-5 p.m.; First Fridays until 8 p.m.

Parking is available at Mason Street Deck on JMU’s campus during gallery events.                       

Picturing Harrisonburg
has been supported by James Madison University, the Harrisonburg-Rockingham Historical Society, Funkhouser Real Estate Group, the Margaret Grattan Weaver Institute for Local History and Culture, Bridgewater College, and an anonymous donor.

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Published: Thursday, July 27, 2017

Last Updated: Thursday, January 23, 2020

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