YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WKBN) – This is what Lou Zona, executive director of Youngstown’s Butler Institute of American Art, had to say about Maple Turner, III: He could “go into a closet and in 20 minutes come out with a work of art.”
Zona says Turner’s talent “is in the elite category.” That is why there will be a six-week exhibit of Turner’s work at the Butler beginning Sunday.
Turner guided our cameras through the 65 pieces that are part of his exhibit. Much of his work is of New York City where he studied at the prestigious Parson’s School of Design, and then shortly after 9/11, the Community College of New York.
“The first-semester students hadn’t shown up, and I started creating, creating. They called me the Maple Turner factory,” Turner said.
After 69 years, the Maple Turner Factory has turned out 195,000 pieces of art.
“When you put the 195,000, people don’t believe you. They look at you like you are crazy. They say there is no way,” Turner said.
Maple Turner first became interested in art at 6 years old when his Lincoln Elementary class, on Youngstown’s East Side, visited the Butler and Turner laid his eyes on Sargent’s “Mrs. Knowles and Her Children.”
“I saw that big painting, and I made up my mind. I said, ‘One day, I’m going to be an artist. My work is going to be in this museum,'” Turner said.
And today, Tuner’s “125th Street Day Time in Harlem” collage is part of the Butler’s permanent collection, along with the pieces that are part of the exhibit, including one he did as an 8th grader that portrays Youngstown’s Wick Avenue. He won an award at East High School for his artwork.
Zona says Turner’s style is all over the place, but he has a place in Youngstown.
“He just will take an idea and run with it and then another idea and run with it,” Zona said.
When someone at the Butler messaged Turner about his exhibit, he was bedridden following a fourth stroke. His doctor told him to get up.
“Because they let me have this show, I got up. I’m walking. I’m moving. I’m creating art,” Turner said.
Turner moved back home 12 years ago to take care of his parents and still lives on the East Side. You can meet him Sunday from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. during a “Meet the Artist” event at the Butler. His exhibit will be on display in the Mesaros Gallery on the lower level until Feb. 26.