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Cultivating Collections: Vitreographs, Glass, and Works by Black Artists

EXHIBITION: MAY 31 - JULY 29, 2022
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a print made from a glass etching of a old white wooden store,

Tom Nakashima, The Devil Came Down to Georgia, 2006, vitreograph, image size 16x36 in, paper size 17x36 in. Gift of Harvey K. and Bess Littleton.

Cultivating Collections: Vitreographs, Glass, and Works by Black Artists
May 31 – July 29, 2022

Cultivating Collections: Glass extends through December 9, 2022

Cultivating Collections is a multi-year series of exhibitions that highlights specific areas of the WCU Fine Art Museum’s Collection, which includes over 1,800 works of art in a wide range of media by artists of the Americas.  Through this series, the Museum and WCU student researchers identify key acquisition areas and pinpoint where significant change is needed.  This year, Cultivating Collections reflects on three areas of the Collection—vitreographs, glass, and works by Black artists. Key works in each area come together to tell the story of past, present, and future collecting directions. 

Black and white glass etched print

Sandy Willcox, Passe-Partout, 1997, vitreograph, image size 22.5 x 17.25 in, paper size 30 x 22.5 in. Gift of Harvey K. and Bess Littleton.


The main gallery of Cultivating Collections features selections from the WCU Fine Art Museum’s vitreograph collection, which consists of over 850 prints made using a glass matrix. It is the largest collection of vitreographs in the world and includes the complete archive of prints produced at Littleton Studios in Spruce Pine, NC from the mid-1970s through 2008.

Harvey and Bess Littleton launched this collection in 2005-2006 when they gifted over 750 vitreographs to the Museum. With the help of the Littleton family, this gift grew in subsequent years, creating an unparalleled collection that tells the story of a distinct period in the history of printmaking, one in which Western North Carolina plays a central role.

multicolor Queen of Hearts print made from etched glass

Therman Statom, Queen of Hearts, 1999, vitreograph, image size 24 x 18 in, paper size 30 x 22.5 in. Gift of Harvey K. and Bess Littleton.


To celebrate the creativity of Black artists and acknowledge the need for greater representation of artists of color in the collection, this year’s student curators felt it was important to create a gallery solely devoted to Black artists. The Museum’s collection currently includes artwork by eight Black artists who have made significant contributions to the art world. Several of these artists have vitreographs in the collection, and their work is also on display in Cultivating Collections: Vitreographs.

Some of their prints speak overtly to the Black experience in America by referring to racial divides in the U.S., the Civil Rights Movement, and the untold histories of Black Americans. Other works explore broader ideas about spirituality, visual abstraction, and science.

Cool colored hand blown glass object

Fritz Dreisbach, Witches Ball, c.1970, blown glass, 12 x 6 x 3 in. Purchased by the WCU Art Department.


This gallery highlights a range of artists who have connections to the history of glass in Western North Carolina. Many of them made significant contributions to the Studio Glass Movement and are teachers, mentors, and innovators who have inspired other artists to work in glass. 

Featured Artists
Walter Darby Bannard, Frederick Birkhill, Warrington Colescott, Ruth Fine, Nancy Genn, Laura Grosch, Dorothy Simpson Krause, David Dodge Lewis, Bonnie Lhotka, Harvey Littleton, Peter Loewer, Tom Nakashima, Judith O’Rourke, Miklos Pogany, Karin Schminke, Dan Welden, Sandy Willcox, Ann Wolff, T.A. Zive, Arlene Burke-Morgan, Clarence Morgan, Martin Puryear, Therman Statom, Mildred Thompson, James Tanner, Fritz Dreisbach, William Bernstein, Shane Fero, Jack King, Robert Levin, Harvey Littleton, David Nichols, Roger Parramore, Richard Ritter, Tadashi Torii, and others.

Visiting Guidelines
The WCU Fine Art Museum exhibitions and events are free and open to the public. Standard Museum hours are Tuesday through Friday 10AM-4PM and Thursday 10AM-7PM.

We look forward to seeing you at Cultivating Collections. If you have any questions please feel free to call 828.227.ARTS.

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