by Bailey Blaker
On Oct. 27, 2011, after nearly six years of planning and construction, the Gund Gallery opened its doors. Combining an industrial steel sheen with the natural lightness of limestone, the building marked a shift in art’s role on Kenyon’s campus. The gallery’s inaugural exhibition, Seeing/Knowing, was curated by then-newly appointed Director Natalie Marsh.
As the gallery approaches its fifth anniversary in October, it plans to start a series of public outreach programs that will strengthen the gallery’s relationship with the student body. Among these is the recently launched Art Loan Program — inspired by projects at Oberlin College, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Williams College — lent art pieces to 38 students this semester.
According to the gallery’s 2015-2018 strategic plan — a proposal the gallery’s staff produced that outlines the institution’s goals for the next few years— it hopes to increase the number of Gund Gallery Associates as well as continue to implement programs like the new Mellon artist-in-residency that will bring outside artists to Kenyon.
The College first proposed constructing the gallery as part of the “We Are Kenyon” fundraising campaign, launched in 2007, to address the need on campus for updated and unified facilities for the art department. Out of this campaign emerged not only the gallery, but also what is now Horvitz Hall, the home of the studio art department.
Mount Vernon resident Karen Buchwald Wright and Ariel Corp, of which Wright is president, donated $1.8 million to the gallery to support the construction of an upper-level exhibition space — now known as the Buchwald-Wright Gallery. In 2011, Graham Gund ’63 pledged $11.5 million toward the construction of 31,000-square-foot building.
The gallery’s latest project, the Mellon artist-in-residence program, represents the collaborative nature of this working group. Funded by the Mellon Foundation, the program will help bring artists to campus for collaborative projects in the next few years.
The first Mellon artist-in-residence is Chicago-based contemporary sculptor Cheryl Pope. Pope is co-teaching a seminar of “Institutions and Inequalities,” a sociology course taught by David Skubby, visiting assistant professor of sociology. The artist Skyped in for classes before she arrived on campus and participated in classes starting last week. Later this spring, Pope will be installing sculptures at the Kenyon Athletic Center.
“I think our Mellon Foundation-supported artist-in-residence pilot program is one of the coolest things we are doing this year and going forward,” Marsh wrote in an email to the Collegian. “It exemplifies what we hoped to do to expand student and faculty collaborations with the Gund Gallery when we worked on the strategic plan in 2014.”
From the very beginning, the Gund Associates program has been an integral part of the institution. The program welcomed 20 students in 2011; today nearly 40 students work for the gallery.
Amelia Barnes ’16 has been a gallery associate throughout her four years at Kenyon. Though Barnes doesn’t see herself pursuing a career in art after graduation, she values the associates program as an important source of professional training.
“It is one of those things that you get out of it what you put in,” Barnes said. “The people who enjoy it the most and have done the most with it are the most passionate and hardworking,”
Studio art major Emma Brown ’17 is new this year to the Gallery’s program, and sees the gallery as a way to further art culture on campus.
“It’s a great source of inspiration to me as a person and an artist, and it’s a very nice environment to be in that values creative expression,” Brown said. The associates program has allowed her to gain valuable insight into working closely with art.
“It’s very special to be behind the scenes with some very thoughtful, professional artwork,” Brown said. “Being around it and thinking about it for extended periods of time is a wonderful opportunity.”
The gallery hopes to expand the associates program in the upcoming years, including adding spaces around campus for associate-curated “pop-up” exhibitions as well as increasing the number of positions available, according to Marsh.
“I wanted the program to reflect our identity as a learning museum — a place where both formal learning (through classroom teaching) and informal learning (everything else we do that adds to what we know) — are core to our mission,” she said.