Its footing secure, the Gund Gallery is poised to take the next steps toward a larger role in learning opportunities, expanding its collection, and fostering a greater presence of art on campus.
On Oct. 25, the Gund Gallery Board of Directors unanimously approved a strategic plan for 2015-18 for the gallery. The strategic plan was initiated by the Office of the President and is the culmination of ten months of work by consultant Tom Shapiro of Cultural Strategy Partners of Chicago and a Kenyon advisory team representing the administration, gallery board members, alumni, faculty, and the larger community, including gallery Director Natalie Marsh.
David Horvitz ’74 H’98, chair of the gallery board and a member of the Kenyon College Board of Trustees, praised the trajectory of the gallery “going from a blank slate to a fully developed program that rivals the best college museums and galleries in the country in just three short years.” Kenyon, Horvitz said, can speak with great pride about the gallery. “And it will only get better,” he added.
President Sean Decatur endorses the strategic plan. “The Graham Gund Gallery has quickly established itself as an invaluable part of the Kenyon learning experience,” Decatur said. “The exhibitions, which are first-rate, and the growth of our permanent collection create opportunities for faculty and students in all disciplines. The gallery brings a distinct energy to our community.”
“Our gallery is steadfastly focused on student learning and artistic excellence,” Marsh said. “The gallery is vital to Kenyon’s educational mission, and we have an emphasis on connecting great art from the 20th and 21st centuries to all of our students.”
Objectives in the strategic plan include enhanced interdisciplinary and collaborative learning experiences while raising Kenyon’s profile to attract new interest to the College and to the gallery.
The strategic plan includes the development in phases of several auxiliary galleries and sites supported by the gallery staff and its resources. These are spaces in which faculty, student and collection exhibitions and many other projects may be realized as part of a “creative campus” initiative increasing venues dedicated to art and visual culture. With enhanced commitments to senior studio art exercises, the gallery will host a student exhibition toward the end of each academic year.
Professor of Art Karen Snouffer, a member of the planning advisory team, described the gallery as “an essential component” for students of art. “The exhibitions are utilized in many studio art courses, as we want both art majors and non-majors to be aware of the forceful presence that contemporary art has in our culture and the world and how that heightened awareness can affect their own art making,” Snouffer said. “The curriculum for our senior art majors, especially, is fully dependent on the Gund Gallery in that we expect them to participate in intense experiential learning. By mounting an exhibit for their senior comprehensives at a full-fledged professional venue, they are participating in a post-Kenyon experience that requires them to be fully professional in the public eye.”
Art students are not alone in taking advantage of the gallery, Snouffer said. Exhibitions of conceptual relevance to the curriculum and stimulating programs have generated opportunities for faculty and students to appreciate the role of contemporary art across the spectrum of the liberal arts.
In the 2013-14 academic year, the gallery served a third of Kenyon students through course-related visits and engaged 40 percent of the faculty in collaboration with academic and mission-oriented activities. The gallery has also developed a robust internship program.
James Keller, chair of the faculty and associate professor of chemistry, endorsed the emphasis on student engagement in the strategic plan. “The gallery boasts ever-increasing foot traffic through its doors and more and more examples of coordination with classroom instructors,” Keller said.
He noted that faculty engagement must be measured in more than numbers of visits and added that the strategic plan calls for a greater role for faculty in events planning and use of the growing permanent collection. “As exciting as the rotating exhibits have been to date, a permanent themed collection has the potential to forge lasting ties between faculty and the gallery,” Keller said.
More than 160 artists and artist collectives have exhibited their work during the gallery’s first three years. The exhibitions are “exquisitely designed and technically immaculate, highlighting the beauty of the gallery space,” Snouffer said.
Shapiro described the building as extraordinary with a growing permanent collection of the highest caliber. “The roster of artists, the internationally recognized people brought to the campus, is very impressive,” he said. “The idea of expanding the imprint of the visual arts and the Gund Gallery beyond its own walls is already taking place, and there will be more.”
The gallery, he said, must be seen in the context of its role as an integral part of the College. “There are various opinions of how it can be used, how to use the resource to the most productive end,” he said. “I was very impressed by the entire community’s — students, faculty from across the disciplines, the administration, alumni, and gallery staff — genuine and passionate commitment to the liberal arts and desire for the Gund Gallery to be a core part of the learning experience.”
Lisa Schott, managing director of the Philander Chase Corporation and advisor for sustainability and community initiatives, was part of the advisory group. The gallery is an enriching gathering place and “a gift to the community,” she said. “Through the wide array of unique events and the art itself, the gallery invites members of the Kenyon and Knox County communities to engage with the exhibitions and with one another to explore, and sometimes confront, new ideas and new ways of experiencing our world.”
Community outreach and educational programs are especially valuable, Snouffer said, “offering an inviting meeting place where unique programs are available to the community. Its function is to be a place for one to feel welcomed and energized.”
Specific goals to be achieved by fiscal year 2018 include: