By Michelle Boaen Jameson
Photos courtesy Brenau University
Since the institution’s inception in 1878, the arts have played a prominent role in the history and culture of Brenau University. However, Brenau had no designated gallery space until the late 1980s. Former President Dr. John Burd inaugurated the Brenau University Permanent Art Collection in 1986.
He encouraged donations from art collectors and placed advertisements in art journals to publicize and further encourage donations to the collection. The first designated gallery space was created around that time. Current University President Dr. Ed Schrader has continued to support and grow the collection and functioning of the Gallery.
Brenau University’s Executive Director of Galleries Nichole Rawlings said Brenau has four official gallery spaces on its Gainesville campus.
“The first three spaces I will mention are rotating exhibition spaces. We typically host about 8-12 exhibitions a year that run in these three spaces.”
This was the first dedicated gallery space. It was formerly a small chapel outside of the balcony of Pearce Auditorium on the second floor of the Pearce building.
The 1914 Neoclassical style library building was renovated in 1990 to become Simmons Visual Arts Center which includes Sellars Gallery. This Gallery was named in honor of the Sellars family, early supporters of the arts at Brenau. The first exhibition hosted in the Sellars Gallery in 1991 was a major retrospective of Jasper Johns’ prints.
The John S. Burd Center for Performing Arts was constructed in 2002 and houses the Leo Castelli Gallery. Leo Castelli (1907-1999) was a New York gallery owner and agent for many well-known pop and modern artists. Dr. Burd established a relationship with Leo Castelli that brought many major exhibitions and much support to Brenau University and the Permanent Art Collection.
The most recently established gallery space was proposed and supported by Schrader in 2014. The Manhattan Gallery is located on the first floor of the Brenau University Downtown Center. The permanent exhibition features work made by New York-based artists or artists having some ties to New York, as the New York art scene has been an integral piece in the development of the Brenau Permanent Art Collection. Artists include: Andy Warhol, David Hockney, Julian Schnabel, Helen Frankenthaler, Dennis Campay, Margaret Evangeline and Hunt Slonem, among many other artists ranging in period and style.
More than 100 works come from donor Dorothy Vogel and her late husband, Herbert. They are well-known art collectors with an interesting story — they were civil servants (postman and librarian) who loved collecting — so one salary went to art and one to supporting them
They established relationships with the artists they collected.
Rawlings said not all of the art is hung in formal exhibition spaces. In fact, much art can be found around campus in public spaces, such as the library, so that it is accessible to the Brenau and wider Gainesville community.
“We are a living museum in that way, encouraging active participation with the art,” said Rawlings.
Each of the galleries have showings that are open to the public, some including student works.
The Presidents Gallery, Sellars Gallery and Castelli Gallery typically each host one to two exhibitions a semester, said Rawlings. After the first main exhibition of the spring semester, both Sellars Gallery and Presidents Gallery are flipped to host student exhibitions — an undergraduate juried exhibition and senior portfolio projects.
“The Sellars Gallery then hosts the ‘President’s Summer Art Series’ exhibition over the summer months, which showcases local artist with a connection to our community. Every exhibition is free and open to the public and there is typically an accompanying reception, also free and general admission, as well as supplemental programming, said Rawlings.
Enthusiasts can expect to see a variey of works in several media at the various galleries.
The Brenau University Galleries strive to host a wide range of artists and styles in the galleries each year to enhance community exposure to varied forms of art making.
“The galleries have hosted traditional painting shows, site-specific installation pieces, abstract 2- and 3-dimensional works, printmaking, etc. Our exhibition season may include a mixture of nationally and/or internationally known artists, living or posthumously; local artists; Brenau students and/or faculty; collectors’ highlights; or Permanent Collection artwork,” said Rawlings.
Several visiting artists have been hosted over the years.
While an exhibition in one of the Brenau Galleries doesn’t always correlate to an artist physically spending time on campus, a number of well-known and respected artists have visited, including: Jasper Johns, Robert Rauschenberg, Hunt Slonem, Lilliana Porter, Ying Li and Dennis Campay. Exhibitions have included works by Andy Warhol, Roy Lichtenstein, Marisol, Alexander Calder, James Rosenquist, Benny Andrews and R.A. Miller.
“The Manhattan Gallery is open with the operating hours of the Brenau University Downtown Center,Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. until 5 p.m. Visitors are asked to enter through the Main Street entrance and sign in at the front desk.
Tours can be arranged by getting in touch with Gallery Director Rawlings at firstname.lastname@example.org.