CLAYTON — Darden W. MacWade didn’t intend to become the poster boy for an exhibit at the Thousand Islands Arts Center, but now he’s got the hang of it.
“It didn’t start out as anything intentional,” he said. “It was an accident.”
The opening reception for “Outta Sight!” — showcasing about 75 iconic rock ’n’ roll posters —is 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. Thursday at the center, 314 John St.
“This impressive exhibition is a little different from our more traditional art openings,” said TIAC executive director Leslie Rowland. “When Darden came to us with a sampling of his posters collected over several decades and shared the background stories, we knew we had a winner.”
Mr. MacWade, 67, a seasonal resident of Point Marguerite, Alexandria Bay, and Jackson, Miss., has spent decades in the music industry, including stints as a disc jockey, radio talk show host and record store co-owner. He’s the husband of the Rev. Mary (Molly) Macsherry MacWade, daughter of north country philanthropist Richard Rollin Macsherry, who died in 2017 at the age of 99.
“You can almost hear the music by looking at these posters,” Mr. MacWade said. “And if you can’t, we’ll play that music for you at the opening.”
He obtained the posters by visiting boutiques (“We also called them head shops”) and through a record store he and partners owned in Jackson.
“It started from there, with no intent to build a collection,” he said.
The oldest poster is an iconic one from “Bob Dylan’s Greatest Hits,” released in 1967. CBS records commissioned artist Milton Glaser to design the special poster that was packaged with the album. The profile drawing features Dylan with huge, multi-colored hair.
Other posters, largely from albums, feature artists ranging from Steve Martin to Elvis Presley. Many of them have tape and pin marks where Mr. MacWade posted them on walls over the years.
“That attests to the authenticity of the posters,” Mr. MacWade said. “Some of them, and I don’t know how it happened, were immaculately preserved.”
Mr. MacWade got his first job in the music business in 1971 as an apprentice at a record shop. He soon began working full time and became a partner at that Jackson shop, which closed in 2011.
“It took off from there,” he said. “We’d get posters from the record companies promoting either the artist, the group or the newest release from the artist or group.”
But there was a code of ethics involving the posters.
“Depending on the company, you could either keep the poster or you had to destroy the poster or send it back, depending on what the arrangement was with the artist or the artists’ management,” Mr. MacWade said.
Sometimes, those rules were followed, he said.
“Once in a while, I would find a poster and I would think, You know? They’re not really going to keep track of this. They have so many posters, they’re not going to call me and say, ‘We didn’t get your poster back!’ And luckily, they never called. So, I kept some posters I was supposed to return.”
But then there were the posters that got away, such as the one from the 1968 album “Jimi Hendrix Experience Smash Hits,” on the Reprise label that features Mr. Hendrix and his two bandmates on horses in an old west scene.
“That was one of the posters that got lost,” Mr. MacWade said. “Somebody just relieved it of me one day. You have parties and you have posters on the wall. The next morning you wake up and go, ‘Hey! There’s a space here and there wasn’t one yesterday.”
One of his favorite posters in the collection is from George Harrison’s 1970 triple album, “All Things Must Pass.”
“You look at that, and you automatically think of the music,” Mr. MacWade said. “That’s what I like about these posters. You look at them and automatically, a song or something comes to your mind and strikes a chord.”
Mr. MacWade doesn’t collect the art anymore and most of the posters will be for sale during the exhibit opening and throughout the exhibition.
“If I was going to give advice to someone about collecting posters, I’d say don’t do it with the idea of investing,” he said. “Do it because you like it.”