26 Sep 2023

Saint Augustine’s University to Feature New Ernest Lee Art Exhibit Opening

RALEIGH, N.C. — Saint Augustine’s University in Raleigh will open a new art exhibit on October 5 called “SAU Homecoming Exhibition: Mr. Ernest M. Lee, Folk Artist, Son of St. Aug.” featuring the work of Lee, a former student of the school and Zebulon resident. The exhibit in the Seby B. Jones Art Gallery includes 32 16-by-20-inch reproductions of Lee’s work, including his first painting of a young girl, completed at age 13, and other pieces he painted throughout his career. Often called Florida’s van Gogh because of his impasto painting technique, Lee grew up in North Carolina but moved to Gainesville in north central Florida in the early 2000s. Virginia Tyler, an associate professor in Saint Augustine’s Department of Visual and Performing Arts, said the university is pleased to host an exhibit of paintings from one of its former students.

“Saint Augustine’s was influential in Mr. Lee’s education, and we’re excited to showcase some of his best artwork in this special exhibition for the public and our alumni,” Tyler said. “We invite the community to the exhibition’s opening reception on homecoming weekend, October 5, from 5–7 p.m. We hope our guests will learn more about Mr. Lee, who grew up in the area and experience his beautiful works of art.” Lee died suddenly on November 27, 2021, in Valdosta, GA, while traveling home from Atlanta, where he and his wife Gloria visited the van Gogh Experience exhibit. Lee was born in Virginia but grew up near Raleigh and was known for his country scenes, buildings, and grandpa paintings. His work has been displayed throughout Florida and Georgia, and he has won multiple awards at various art shows. He was also known for giving back to the community through art classes focusing on children and adults at public schools, colleges, art galleries, and even his home.

Ernest’s wife, Gloria Lee, said he especially had a heart for working with special needs children. “Ernest felt everyone had art inside of them,” Gloria said. “He had a special way with children from every background, and he studied and prayed a lot to ensure he learned the best way to reach them. He enjoyed capturing things in his paintings to tell a story and often included historical details of the subjects he painted.”

The exhibit runs through October 31, and the Seby B. Jones Art Gallery is open to the public Tuesday and Thursday, 9:30 a.m.-4:00 p.m., or by appointment. For more information about Ernest Lee or his artwork, please visit www.ernestleeart.com.