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Discover Heritage Collection Artist: Oscar Conley Pickett

Mostly forgotten except by a small group of devoted fans, this artist was once well known in Muncie. He worked as a janitor, a sign painter, a piano player, and composer. He was even known to handcraft violins. Local citizens knew him best, however, as a wandering painter of landscapes. To pick up some cash for meals and, most likely, a drink or two, Oscar Conley Pickett painted his scenes on cardboard, wooden crates, or even glass. Minnetrista owns two of his paintings. While Pickett may not be considered the finest of artists, he did have a certain folksy talent.

Oscar Conley Pickett with his family. Pickett is standing second from the left, marked with an X.
Oscar Conley Pickett with his family. Pickett is standing second from the left, marked with an X.

He worked quickly and often finished a painting in an hour or less. His landscapes usually included beech and sycamore trees, a river or creek, and a cabin. Often they included ashes that fell from his ever-present cigarette. Both of the Pickett paintings in the Minnetrista Heritage Collection follow his usual formula. On the back of one of the paintings, it is noted that John Duling purchased the painting from the artist in June 1955. He paid Pickett $2.00.

"Untitled" by Oscar Conley Pickett

Pickett was born in Osgood, Indiana on May 11, 1886 and spent his early years in Kansas, Oklahoma and Greensburg, Indiana before settling in Muncie around 1930. Following his death in 1957, Pickett was buried in an unmarked grave. Interest in this local artist was revived in the 1980s, when local resident Bill Barnett became determined to learn about the artist and to get a marker for his grave. Besides the grave marker, Barnett’s research resulted in an exhibition of Pickett’s paintings at the Minnetrista Center (now the E. B. and Bertha Ball Center).

Oscar Conley Pickett

Check auction website, eBay, and local flea markets and you may find an Oscar Pickett. You may even find one in your grandparents’ attic. If you do, you’ll have a unique piece of Muncie history.

minnetrista heritage collection

minnetrista collects the objects and archival material that document the people, places, events, organisations, businesses and industry of the region – in other words, the history of east central indiana.

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