Bridget Earnshaw, curator of South Shore Arts’ “For the Love of the Game,” expects the center's showcase of sports art and memorabilia to inspire repeated viewings by exhibit goers in the know.

Earnshaw also predicts those viewers will bring fellow sports and art aficionados with them for what she hopes are new repeat viewers.

“Everyone who has come to it has said ‘I’ve got to bring my friend to this’ or ‘I’ve got to bring my son back,’ she said. “Even the wives who come in to see the show really love it. They’re looking at it and super excited and say they want to come back with their husbands.”

"For the Love of the Game" runs at the South Shore Arts Gallery at the Center for Visual and Performing Arts in Munster through Jan. 28. The items and artwork that make up the exhibit cover a myriad of professional sports and dates back nearly a century.

The impetus for the exhibit, Earnshaw said, came from Region-based collector Terry McMahon. McMahon approached South Shore Arts executive director John Cain with interest in allowing the arts organization to showcase items in his collection.

“We were debating if there was enough (memorabilia in the collection) to fill the gallery,” Earnshaw said. “Then I went over to Terry’s house to see the display, and he has quite the collection. There’s a ton of baseball stuff, and there’s a lot of rare memorabilia that you don’t usually see.”

To expand upon McMahon’s contributions as well as cast a wider net in terms of subject and sports for their show, South Shore Arts reached out to other collectors and businesses. In the end, “Game” is made up of more than 300 pieces of memorabilia and artworks.

In terms of timeframe, “Love” features items going as far back as the Midsummer Classic, an all-star major league baseball game held at Chicago’s Comiskey Park in 1933 which featured Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig and Bill Terry in its starting lineup. It also features signed baseballs and basketballs dating back decades and a myriad of memorabilia from major events and figures in a wide gamut of professional sports.

“The gallery, when you walk into it, has a nice flow,” Earnshaw said. “It starts off with some golf items, goes into boxing, then it goes into football. There’s a little bit of horse racing, then it goes into baseball, which fills up about half of the gallery. Then it goes into the Chicago Bulls.”

Artistically, South Shore Arts has scored a touchdown with the exhibit as well.

Prints of paintings by celebrated sports and pop culture artist Leroy Neiman are prominently featured in the exhibit. Also included are rare sports photographs dating back more than a half century. In addition, there are original paintings of Windy City ballparks and stadiums by north suburban-based artist Mark McMahon and watercolor works from Region painter Kathy Los-Rathburn.

“They’re really interesting photographs from an artistic standpoint,” Earnshaw said. “It’s interesting to see the era in which (the games) were played and the way (the photograph) was shot and the craftsmanship of the photographer.

“It’s really a colorful exhibit,” she added. “The Leroy Nieman paintings are huge and they pull everything together really nicely.”

Since opening Nov. 14, “Game” has proven to be a grand slam with those who have made their way to South Shore Arts’ gallery, regardless of the degree of his or her love for or knowledge of the games.

“When someone comes in who is not really interested (in sports), they come in really fast and they’re looking at all the pictures and getting up close to them, and all of a sudden an interest is sparked, and it’s interesting to see that,” Earnshaw said.

South Shore Arts’ Gallery at the Center for Visual and Performing Arts is open 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday and noon to 4 p.m. Sunday.

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