Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Major Grants Enhance Studio Art Experience at Washington College

Right: The Kohl Gallery and the William Frank Visual Arts Hall showcased student art in an April 2010 exhibition.

CHESTERTOWN, MD—Two grants totaling nearly half a million dollars are strengthening the Washington College art department and its collaborative efforts with other academic disciplines on campus. Provost Christopher Ames says the latest grant, $331,000 from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, awarded earlier this month, is building on an important earlier grant of $164,798 from the Davenport Family Foundation.

Awarded in May of 2009, the Davenport funds provided sophisticated projection systems, furnishings for Kohl Gallery, photography equipment, and materials for drawing and painting studios. The Mellon funds will enable the College to hire a new full-time professor in studio art and to fund interdepartmental exhibitions in the new Kohl Gallery.

“These grants are helping a dynamic art department reach a new level of excellence,” says Dr. Mitchell Reiss, who became president of Washington College on July 1. “I look forward to even more engaging and provocative collaborations on campus as a result of this new funding.”

The $331,818 Mellon Foundation grant will help the College continue the momentum and excitement created by the opening of the $24 million Gibson Center for the Arts in fall of 2009. The Center includes the 1,200 square-foot Kohl Gallery, a state-of-the-art space where major exhibits are showcased. (The highly acclaimed opening exhibition, “Second Nature: Masterpieces of 19th Century Landscape Painting,” featured rarely seen works by Monet, Renoir, Pissarro and others.) An adjacent hallway, the William Frank Visual Arts Hall, provides a venue for student art exhibits, as well.

The upcoming improvements to the visual arts program are based in part on findings from an external peer review. That review, conducted by art professors from Connecticut College and Mount Holyoke College, recommended refurbishing the charming but cramped Larrabee Arts Center, a renovated boiler plant that houses studio art spaces. It also suggested adding a second tenure-track studio art teacher, one with expertise in some form of three-dimensional art such as sculpture, ceramics or installations.

The full time Art Department faculty now includes two art historians—Nancy L. Underwood associate professor Donald McColl, and associate professor Aileen Tsui—and assistant professor of studio art Monika Weiss, who spent the 2009-10 year on sabbatical in Prague, Warsaw and Berlin. Painter, sculptor and installation artist Ricky Sears, Weiss’s sabbatical replacement, will remain on campus as a visiting professor for the coming year while the College conducts a national search for the new tenure-track position.

Provost Ames says these grants will enrich the entire curriculum at Washington College. “I fully expect our faculty to embrace this ongoing opportunity, and to collaborate on exhibits that link art specifically to their areas of research and scholarship,” he says. “The environment, literature, music, mathematics, political movements, … the possibilities for subject matter are exciting, and they are endless.”

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