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Published: Saturday, 8/11/2001

Firelands campus receives gift of Chinese treasures

A carved purple quartz gourd with grape flourish is one of a collection of 68 Oriental artworks given to the Fire- lands campus by a Huron-area family. A carved purple quartz gourd with grape flourish is one of a collection of 68 Oriental artworks given to the Fire- lands campus by a Huron-area family.

HURON, Ohio - At first, the list of treasures sounds like a Chinese restaurant menu: “Lotus blossom with three small phoenix.” “Fretwork lady with a handkerchief of jade, carnelian, and glaze.” “Antique boar's tusk carved with feasting revelers.”

But even the most dedicated diner would have trouble with the tab at this table. These are masterpieces of Chinese art, not cuisine. And this collection of 68 Oriental artworks, donated to Bowling Green State University's Firelands campus by a Huron-area family, is valued at $350,000.

“The opportunity to receive a gift of this magnitude is extremely humbling,” said Dr. James Smith, dean of the Firelands campus.

“These pieces will serve as an inspiration to art students, and students in other disciplines,” said Jacqueline Nathan, director of the university's Fine Arts Center Galleries.

The collection of carvings, dolls, vases, and figurines was accumulated over many years by Elinor Sidner, a scion of the Sandusky area arts community. She split her years between homes in San Francisco and rural Huron, and built her collection of Oriental artwork through family travels and a long relationship with an antiquities dealer.

Dr. Bill Balzer, BGSU dean of continuing education, international, and summer programs, was interim dean at Firelands 18 months ago when he heard from Mrs. Sidner's attorney. He said the elderly Mrs. Sidner was closing her house and moving into a nursing home.

“She and her family needed a good custodian for this gift, somewhere it could benefit others and be properly cared for over time,” Mr. Balzer said. “We took a look, and accepted.

“When it first came to us from storage, it was like Christmas morning, unwrapping each little piece, each one so beautiful. There's an ivory sculpture of a carriage, rider, and two horses, about three feet long and a foot high. It was breathtaking, opening each package, just seeing what was inside.”

The collection includes some antiques, and others, like the carriage sculpture, have multiple components. Some items will be displayed in the soon-to-be-built Cedar Point Center at the Firelands campus; other elements will be shown on a rotating basis at the main campus in Bowling Green, Mr. Balzer said.

For now, the treasure will remain in storage in Bowling Green until the items are cataloged and space can be created for them.

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