WCU Fine Art Museum Exhibition: August 18 - December 4, 2020
Cultivating Collections: Paintings
The WCU Fine Art Museum’s paintings collection contains over 180 works in oil, acrylic, watercolor, enamel, and gouache created from 1950 to the present. To engage students in the process of reviewing the Collection, the Museum’s Curator of Collections and Exhibitions, Carolyn Grosch, worked with her Exhibition Practicum class to develop, Cultivating Collections: Paintings. Students selected works to display, interviewed artists, wrote labels, and evaluated strengths and opportunities for the paintings collection.
One of the centerpieces of this collection is a large-scale painting by Kenneth Noland, a celebrated American modernist painter associated with the Washington Color School.
This work, part of Noland’s famous Stripes series, entered the collection through the efforts of Robert Godfrey, former director of the Art Department at WCU (now the School of Art and Design), who encouraged Noland to gift the work to the art collection. Godfrey was an instrumental force in building the University’s art collection between 1985 and 2006, and several of the works on view are held by the Museum as a result of his efforts to bring visiting artists to campus.
Although slightly more male artists are represented in the paintings collection, the Museum holds more works in total by female artists. Many of these works were acquired as part of a Women’s Studies Collection that was launched by Robert Godfrey in the 1990s. Godfrey explained the early intentions of the University’s art collection as “especially interested in finding artists who have gotten lost in the cracks…particularly women artists in their later years who have made major contributions to the American art scene.”
Consisting of a wide range of styles and subject matter, the paintings collection is strong in artists who are, or have been, active in Western North Carolina. This area of focus accelerated in 2017 when the Museum received several important paintings from collectors Ray Griffin and Thom Robinson, who are passionate about supporting regional artists. Their generous donation included works by Asheville-based artists Alli Good, Julie Armbruster, R. Brooke Priddy Conrad, Dustin Spagnola, Anna Jensen, and others.
Growth of the paintings collection is currently limited by available storage space, however the Museum recognizes a critical need to broaden the diversity of artists represented in this collection. To that effect, the Museum is strategically collecting more works by contemporary Native American painters, such as those acquired recently by Julie Buffalohead and America Meredith.
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.
As the Museum’s holdings increase, either through donations or purchases, it is essential for the Museum to evaluate strengths, identify key acquisition areas, and also pinpoint where significant change is needed.