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Catich Collection Begins New Life

October 2004

Priest, scholar, artist and teacher Fr. Edward Catich (1906 - 1979) left a legacy of artwork that, for over 30 years, has been patiently awaiting an audience while in storage at the Galvin Fine Arts Center. The collection, which Catich bequeathed to art professor John Schmits '57, contains 5,000 sketches, calligraphic inscriptions, incised slates, drawings and illustrations.

The time has come for these pieces to shine again. In October, the Riverboat Development Authority granted St. Ambrose $35,000 to purchase software and hire personnel to digitally archive the artwork, which will allow the images to be accessed via the Internet. the database will also be searchable for those doing scholarly research.

"Father Catich's life and art are world-renowned, but there are still many who have yet to experience his philosophy and religious iconography," says Kristin Quinn, professor and chair of the Department of Art and of the Art on Campus committee. "Digitally cataloging the collection will preserve the integrity of the artwork and make it available to a larger audience for viewing and research."

The digitalization of Catich's artwork began in the summer of 2003 with with 1,000 pieces photographed or scanned and catalogued. And while much more needs to be done, the process is as valuable as the end result, says Quinn. "We consider this project to be a benchmark for what we do with historical archives and collections that are in the university's care."

One of the first outcomes of the cataloguing is "The Art of the Improviser," a showing of Catich's music-themed works, which opened in the newly renovated gallery this spring and continues through Sept. 17. A celebration is also being planned in 2006 to commemorate his 100th birthday.

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