New gallery exhibit highlights six decades of art ‘Of the Times’

Celebrating 60 years of Wake Forest University student-acquired contemporary art

Thirty-seven student-acquired artworks spanning six decades will be displayed in Hanes Gallery this spring. The exhibit, “Of the Times,” opens Jan. 19 and runs through March 31. A linoleum cut by Picasso and a painting by Elaine de Kooning will be on display. Other artists represented include Alex Katz, Louise Nevelson, Keith Haring and Jasper Johns.

Wake Forest’s student art-buying trip is unique in higher education. Every four years since 1963, students have chosen artwork for the University. Three generations have created a premier collection of contemporary artworks that reflect the times. Highlights from the Mark H. Reece Collection of Student-Acquired Contemporary Art include 37 works representing each of six decades with at least one from each buying trip. 

A media preview tour will be offered at Hanes Gallery on Wednesday, Jan. 17 from 11 a.m. to noon. There will be an opportunity to talk with Wake Forest Curator of Collections Jennifer Finkel; contemporary art expert and professor Jay Curley – a faculty leader for the art-buying trip; 1969 art-buying trip participant J.D. Wilson, chair and CEO of Excalibur who co-founded Stepstone Strategic Partners in Winston-Salem; and students who will be traveling to New York in March for the next art-buying trip.

Making art accessible with audio, text and touch

Carefully created to convey a description of each piece, the image descriptions will be available as text (transcripts) and audio. The Bloomberg Connects app makes the University’s art accessible for on-site and off-site visits through photo, audio and video features. The audio and text offer more opportunities to learn about the pieces and support engagement for those with various disabilities, including people with low vision or blindness.

The exhibit includes tactile features to make QR codes easier to locate and use. There will be a few 3D-printed tactile art models to provide hands-on exploration and tactile understanding of the art. The 3D art models were created using resources available through the University’s WakerSpace.

“I believe that the art collections accessibility programming for this event will lead to further partnerships that help make Wake Forest art, museums and exhibit spaces as accessible and welcoming as possible for our broad and diverse community,” said Eudora Stuble, director of technology accessibility at Wake Forest.

The history of student-acquired art at Wake Forest

In 1963, Wake Forest’s Dean of Men and College Union Adviser Mark Reece had a vision for a student art-buying trip. At the time, there was no art department at Wake Forest. He and then faculty members Ed Wilson and Allen Easley and two students drove to New York City, explored the contemporary art galleries there, and came back with a dozen works of art, selected by the students, for the University.

Every four years since then, except for the pandemic year, a small group of students has traveled to New York City, with University funds, to purchase art for Wake Forest’s Student Union Art Collection – works that reflect the times.

In February 2022, John and Libby Reece endowed a conservation fund to care for, steward and rename the Student Union Collection of Contemporary Art as the Mark H. Reece Collection of Student-Acquired Contemporary Art in honor of John Reece’s father – the founder of the collection.

Read more about the 2017 art-buying trip to New York and the 2021 pandemic-year art-acquisition process.

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