Unearthing the archive: Willoughby Elliott retrospective opens at Cultural Center

Mar 31, 2024

For the next few weeks, the walls of the Dartmouth Cultural Center will display the works of Willoughby Elliot, a local artist and cultural icon who passed away in 2016. 

Elliott was an  instructor for over 40 years at UMass Dartmouth, teaching drawing, painting and printmaking, while creating an extensive body of his own work, displayed at such institutions as the Boston Center for the Arts, the Marion Art Center and the Danforth Art Museum in Framingham. 

The exhibition came about through the Elliott family’s connection to the Dartmouth Cultural Center. 

Lisa Elliott, a textile artist and Willoughby’s widow, teaches weaving at the center, and she asked Gallery Director Jill Law if the center would be interested in hosting an exhibition of his work. 

The pieces in the exhibition are drawn from Lisa’s private collection of Willoughby’s work. 

“I went to her house to curate what I wanted… and I was blown away,” said Law. 

The proceeds from the exhibition will be split three ways between Lisa, the center and the Willoughby Elliott Endowed Scholarship at UMass Dartmouth College of Visual and Performing Arts. 

“It’s nice to be in this room and surrounded by his paintings,” Lisa said at the opening. She added it was nice to see his paintings exhibited and appreciated. 

The paintings selected for the exhibition are a mix of landscapes, still lives and abstract works. 

Lisa said Willoughby would often paint his canvases orange as a base layer before he started on his works. 

Catherine Carter, an abstract artist who had been Willoughby’s advisee at UMass Dartmouth, said he did so because the orange was so different from any of the other colors he used, brighter than the more muted tones of the work itself. 

“He makes acrylic work like oil because of the way he knew how to layer things,” said Carter. 

The exhibit will run from Friday, March 29 to Saturday, April 27.