From his ode to heroic volunteers in “The Scoutmaster” to his slice-of-life depiction of a lakeside Scout camp in “Come and Get It,” Norman Rockwell spent decades capturing iconic Scouting moments in oil on canvas.
And now, for the first time ever, families can see those paintings in an unprecedented way.
The American Scouting Collection, a new exhibition featuring Rockwell originals as well as BSA-themed works by other artists, opened in October 2020 at the Medici Museum of Art in Howland, Ohio.
The new exhibition marks the first time in history that all 65 of Rockwell’s Scouting paintings have been displayed at the same place and time.
“That may come as a surprise to you, as it has to many others,” says Ned Gold, an Ohio attorney, Silver Buffalo Award recipient and Eagle Scout who has been involved in Scouting for more than 70 years. “I’ve seen them all my life — in magazines and so many other places. I’ve seen a few in other museums. But it is so awesome to see them all in one place at one time. I pinch myself whenever I walk through the gallery.”
Gold was instrumental in making this exhibition possible — and introducing these masterpieces to a new generation of Scouts.
The Medici is halfway between Cleveland to the northwest and Pittsburgh to the southeast. About 40 percent of the U.S. population lives within a day’s drive.
But how did the Rockwells end up at this museum in eastern Ohio? The story is just as fascinating as the man who made it possible.
Can’t Wait: The journey to Ohio
Before the Rockwell paintings made their way to Ohio, they were on display at the National Scouting Museum in Irving, Texas. (Even at that location, there wasn’t space to show the entire collection.)
The National Scouting Museum closed in Irving in 2017 and opened at Philmont Scout Ranch in New Mexico in 2018. But the Rockwells did not take the journey west.
Instead, they remained in storage until Gold and others stepped up and found a new home — most notably a space within a day’s drive for millions of Americans and large enough to display 65 Rockwells.
Gold is quick to point out that he can’t take all the credit for making this exhibition possible. He gives shoutouts to former BSA professionals Al Lambert and John Green, Medici board president John Anderson, and museum director Katelyn Amendolara-Russo.
Gold arranged for the collection to be shipped from Texas and remembers the exact moment the paintings arrived on Jan. 31, 2020.
“I drove to the museum that morning and was greatly relieved to see from the road the truck sitting in the back of the museum with its doors open and art coming out,” he says. “Whew!”
Spirit of America: Why the Rockwells matter
As a lifelong Scout, Gold says he has trouble picking just one Rockwell painting as his favorite. But two stand out: 1956’s “The Scoutmaster” and 1957’s “High Adventure,” with Philmont’s Tooth of Time in the background.
(Read our post about the surprising story behind “The Scoutmaster.”)
Gold understands that longtime Scouting volunteers, especially those who grew up involved in this movement, will be especially interested in seeing the Rockwells. But he’s just as invested in ensuring younger Scouts admire and appreciate the work.
After all, everything about Scouting — including its rich history — should be about putting the Scouts first.
“I hope they evolve an enthusiasm for the Scouting experience by viewing the historic paintings,” Gold says. “I hope they can relate the paintings to their own Scouting experiences.”
To help that happen, the museum installed the Rockwell pieces about 5 inches lower than the traditional height for hanging art. This makes it easier for Scouts and for visitors who use wheelchairs to view the paintings.
Scouts will get a great view of these gorgeous pieces, seeing themes like service, adventure, leadership, reverence and patriotism.
“The adventures and values depicted in the paintings still exist and are still relevant to our lives and values,” Gold says. “Scouting is needed more than ever. The right time for these paintings is right now.”
Pointing the Way: How to visit the Rockwells
The Medici is open 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Wednesday through Sunday. Admission is free, though donations are encouraged. Masks are mandatory.
If you are planning to visit with a Scout unit or large group, make a reservation by calling 330-856-2120.
Reservations can also be coordinated if you’d like to visit during the holiday break, although availability may be limited. Reservations are not required after the holidays, but because of COVID-safe social distancing protocols, those with reservations are given priority during busy periods.
The Medici has launched an app that walks visitors through the collection one painting at a time, meaning you’ll want your phone and headphones.
If you’re coming from farther away, visit the Trumbull County Tourism Bureau to explore restaurants, shops, activities and lodging options — including hotels, campgrounds and RV parks.
Gold is fond of the Grand Resort at Avalon, located just across the street from the museum. He says any visitor to the area should also make time for the National Packard Museum, which honors the city’s status as the birthplace of the Packard automobile.
Three other points about visiting:
- Earn a badge: Museum director Katelyn Amendolara-Russo is registered as a counselor for the Art merit badge. If arranged in advance, she’s happy to take Scouts through a short course and help them complete at least some of the merit badge’s requirements.
- Hold an event: Built into the contract with the museum is the right of any BSA group to have meetings at the museum without charge — unless a museum employee must stay past normal hours, in which case there’s a small fee. “This would make a great place for a board retreat, a district meeting, an OA event and more,” Gold says. (Note: During COVID-19, be sure to follow the advice of your local council and abide by any gathering or travel restrictions to or from the museum. Read more here.)
- See more than Rockwells: The Scouting collection has 430 paintings in all, including works by Rockwell, Walt Disney, Carl Rungius, Howard Chandler Christy, J.C. Leyendecker and Joseph Csatari. Right now, there’s only room to display the Rockwells and a few others of renown, such as the Disney collection and the Leyendeckers. But the museum is building a large expansion, opening in early 2021, that will make room for even more paintings to be displayed.
The Scoutmaster: Meet Ned Gold
Ned Gold, 79, began his Scouting career as an 8-year-old Cub Scout in Santa Fe, N.M.
His family would be right at home in a Rockwell portrait. Gold is an Eagle Scout, and so are his dad, two uncles, two brothers, cousin and son. His daughter is active in Scouting and has a Webelos son.
Gold, who served on Philmont staff for six years, founded the Philmont Staff Association, cementing his connection to a magical place that he calls “part of the Gold family DNA.”
Gold says his ancestors journeyed from Poland to New Mexico in around 1840 and “had to have gone right past the Tooth of Time on their venture.” They became commercial traders across the Southwest.
Gold’s father was present for the dedication of Philmont (then called Philturn Rocky Mountain Scout Camp) in 1939.
While his time on staff at Philmont was transformative, Gold says his greatest Philmont memories were the treks he took with his children in 1983 and 1990. His daughter’s trek inspired her to become a Philmont staffer for two years and then work at Kandersteg International Scout Centre in Switzerland. (She chronicled her story in the September 1998 issue of Scouting magazine.)
Gold has served as Scoutmaster, area vice president, regional board member, national committee member and council president.
Before that, he served in the Air Force as a judge advocate in Alaska. Even there, he found time for Scouting, volunteering as a committee chairman for the Western Alaska Council.
When Gold learned there had never been attempts to invite the native peoples of Alaska to join Scouting, “I decided that had to change.”
He helped form units in many of the native villages and proudly notes that the program continues today.
“It was a most exhilarating experience,” Gold says. “Seeing those kids enjoying the Scouting experience was heartwarming, even at 10-below.”
Bringing the Rockwells out of storage so they can be enjoyed anew is just the latest accomplishment in Gold’s impressive résumé. It wasn’t easy, but he feels that one look makes it all worthwhile.
“I know of no other manner in which the history of Scouting and its adventure is so vividly expressed — and by one of America’s masters, a man who clearly loved Scouting and who knew how and was able to express his love so exquisitely,” he says.