Reynolda House, Museum of American Art, affiliates with WFU

In an agreement described as historic and visionary, Reynolda House, Museum of American Art, has become an affiliate of its longtime neighbor, Wake Forest University.

Reynolda House President Barbara B. Millhouse and Wake Forest President Thomas K. Hearn Jr. announced the new relationship in an afternoon press conference on Jan. 15 at the house, built originally as the early 20th century home of R. J. Reynolds, founder of R. J. Reynolds Tobacco Co., and his wife, Katharine Smith Reynolds. It is now home to a museum distinguished for its collection of American art dating from the mid-18th century and a wide range of interdisciplinary educational programs serving adults and children.

“I am proud to announce that the board of directors of Reynolda House today approved an affiliation agreement with Wake Forest University,” Millhouse said. “This will enhance both institutions. It will give Reynolda House long-term stability, further national visibility, and, therefore, access to additional resources.”

Millhouse added that “this decision is based on a long and productive collaboration with the university and mutual recognition of the excellence of each institution. Our board has great confidence in Wake Forest to help us achieve our mission.”

Reynolda House’s board approved the new relationship at a morning meeting on Jan. 15.

The current board of directors of Reynolda House will serve until the termination of their terms. At that time, Wake Forest’s board of trustees will elect Reynolda House’s board of directors. Wake Forest’s president will appoint Reynolda House’s chief executive officer.

Millhouse said that the faculty of Wake Forest have been regular participants in Reynolda House programming since the founding of the museum, providing lectures, concerts, interdisciplinary courses, book discussions, readings and seminars. The Reynolda Symposium, for instance, brings together faculty from 18 southeastern colleges, including Wake Forest, interested in using the art collection as a focal point for multi-disciplinary study.

Art lectures given at Reynolda House by artists and art historians of national prominence enrich the course offerings of Wake Forest, as well. Last year, Reynolda House and the university’s art department co-sponsored a visit by art historian Jules Prown, Yale University’s Paul Mellon Professor Emeritus of the History of Art.

“I admire the leadership that Barbara Millhouse has given to this special place,” said Hearn, referring to the Reynolda House president, whose parents, Mary Reynolds and Charles Babcock, once owned and resided in the house. “Her parents’ vision for Wake Forest and for Reynolda House is part of a common destiny, and this agreement ensures the further success of that legacy.”

In the late 1940s, Mary Reynolds and Charles Babcock contributed a large portion of the family estate for the construction of Wake Forest’s Reynolda Campus, which opened in 1956. Wake Forest’s undergraduate College, Calloway School of Business and Accountancy, Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, Babcock Graduate School of Management, Divinity School, and School of Law are located on the campus.

In 1964, the Babcock family placed Reynolda House and the surrounding 19 acres in a non-profit institution dedicated to serve as an education center using a collection of American art as its focal point. In 1967, Reynolda House, which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, presented to the public an art collection with works by many of the nation’s most distinguished artists, including John Singleton Copley, Gilbert Stuart, Albert Bierstadt and Frederic E. Church.

Many other significant works have been added by artists including Georgia O’Keeffe, Mary Cassatt, Grant Wood, Stuart Davis and Jacob Lawrence. With works dating from 1755 to the present, the collection has been described by preeminent art scholar John Wilmerding of Princeton University as “the finest concentration of American art in a public collection south of Washington (D.C.).”

Hearn and Millhouse emphasized that the museum’s mission will remain unchanged and its endowment will be used to support its operations.

“Reynolda House and its splendid collection are treasures to be cared for, judiciously expanded, and made available to an increasingly broad and diverse audience,” Hearn said.

Hearn noted that Reynolda House will soon begin construction of an educational addition to the museum, which will be primarily funded by a Reynolda House capital campaign that has already raised more than $9.4 million. The goal is $12 million.
Approximately 29,000 square feet will be added to Reynolda House in a three-floor wing carefully placed to preserve important aspects of the original landscape. The project will include a visitors’ center, gallery, multi-purpose room, library and archives, classrooms and studio space.

In addition to the new construction, Reynolda House plans to restore several public rooms to their original 1920s appearance.

While the board of directors of Reynolda House has approved affiliation with Wake Forest, it must meet again in the near future to approve necessary changes in the governing documents of Reynolda House.

Categories: University Announcement