Erk Russell Inducted into the Betty Foy Sanders Georgia Artists Collection

Painting of legendary football coach will reside in Georgia Artists Collection on campus

Erk, Steve Penley On display in the Betty Foy Sanders Georgia Artists Collection, Center for Art & Theatre

Erk, Steve Penley
On display in the Betty Foy Sanders Georgia Artists Collection, Center for Art & Theatre

STATESBORO, Ga. – Georgia’s Former First Lady and Bulloch County native Betty Foy Sanders will present Georgia Southern University with a portrait of legendary football coach Erk Russell as interpreted by renowned Georgia artist Steve Penley. Sanders commissioned Penley to create the work for the Georgia Artists Collection, which features works by artists with a connection to the state of Georgia. The portrait is a gift from Governor and Mrs. Sanders to the University. President Brooks A. Keel will accept the portrait on behalf of Georgia Southern Friday evening at the 1906 Society Gala.

Defined by bright colors and impressionistic brush strokes, Penley’s painting of Erk Russell layers iconic portraits of Coach Erk Russell with the traditions he instilled in Georgia Southern Football. From Erk’s signature smile to the yellow school bus, triple-option play and championship flags, this portrait painting immortalizes the “Father of Georgia Southern football.” Russell came to Statesboro in 1981 to restart a program that had been dormant for more than 40 years. Russell instilled a sense of pride in Eagle football and the master motivator led Georgia Southern to three national championships, engaging the local community as well as fans across the state and country.

“The unveiling of this newest acquisition couldn’t happen at a better time, Homecoming Weekend, when we all fondly embrace the traditions that make Georgia Southern so endeared,” said Department Chair of the Betty Foy Sanders Department of Art, Patricia Carter.

Portrait of Erk Russell by Steve Penley will be on permanent display in the Betty Foy Sanders Georgia Artists Collection in the Center for Art & Theatre, Georgia Southern University. Curated by Betty Foy Sanders since 1967, the Collection is the only one of its kind on a college campus in our state, and escalates in stature and legacy as Sanders continues to curate artworks for inclusion by notable artists with a connection to the state of Georgia—whether the artist is native to the state, the artwork is created with materials indigenous to the state, or the imagery is about the state of Georgia.

In addition to providing for the Georgia Artists Collection, Sanders has established generous academic scholarships, student travel scholarships and opportunities for the art students of Georgia Southern University. Through her generosity and model of excellence, Betty Foy Sanders has provided for the next generation of Georgia artists, and has honored Georgia Southern with this responsibility.

Penley was raised in Macon, Georgia, and currently resides in Atlanta. He attended the School of Visual Arts in New York City after attending the University of Georgia. Penley’s previous works include portraits of presidents, inventors, sports heroes and celebrities as well snapshots and symbols of American culture. As society embraces a triumphant return to realism and figurative artwork, corporate and private collectors have sought out Penley’s work across the country. Collectors include Coca-Cola, Troutman Sanders, Morgan Keegan, Houston’s Corporation, ESPN Zone and the Georgia Music Hall of Fame. Robert Mondavi and Sterling vineyards in Napa Valley feature Steve Penley’s art. Politicians who have commissioned Penley’s art include Jack Watson and Hamilton Jordan; both former White House Chief’s of Staff, Zell Miller, State Senator of Georgia and US Deputy Attorney General Larry Thompson.

Betty Foy Sanders Department of Art gallery programming at the Center for Art & Theatre is free and open to the public Monday – Friday, 10am – 5pm and by appointment. In compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act, Georgia Southern University will honor requests for reasonable accommodations.

Image Credits
Steve Penley
Acrylic on canvas, 2010
48″ x 60″
Betty Foy Sanders Georgia Artist Collection, Georgia Southern University
© Steve Penley

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Betty Foy Sanders Department of Art • PO Box 8032 • Statesboro, GA 30460 • (912) 478-5358 • • (map)