New art shows highlight protest and tradition

Photo by Nancy McDearmon of the grave marker for Indiana Fletcher Williams at Monument Hill, July 2015
Photo by Nancy McDearmon of the grave marker for Indiana Fletcher Williams at Monument Hill, July 2015

The first day of classes at Sweet Briar will also mark the opening of one exhibition on campus. “We Are Sweet Briar: A Community Rises” premieres Thursday, Aug. 27, in Benedict Gallery. A few weeks later, on Sept. 14, Pannell Gallery will debut “Made Possible by The Friends of Art: Building a College Collection.”

Both shows are free and open to the public. At this time, there are no opening receptions planned, though plans may change. Benedict Gallery is open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday; Pannell Gallery is open 1 to 4 p.m. Sundays, 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Monday through Thursday and 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Friday. Both are closed during semester breaks.

Sweet Briar galleries director Karol Lawson notes that “We are Sweet Briar” is planned to commemorate the extraordinary events that unfolded at Sweet Briar in the spring and early summer of 2015, when the College’s announced closure sparked outrage and activism among alumnae, faculty, staff and students.

The installation will feature mementos from that period of upheaval, such as protest banners created by students and alumnae and a selection of photographs by college photographer Meridith de Avila Khan that “document the all-too-human aspects of the crisis,” Lawson said.

She hopes the community will recognize that this current Benedict Gallery exhibit is conceived as a “bookend” to one shown in this gallery in March 2015 that greeted students as they returned from spring break — “Landmark, Symbol, and Tradition: An Interactive Installation for the Sweet Briar Community,” which featured poignant artifacts and gave campus residents an opportunity to share their thoughts with brown paper covering the walls and a supply of Sharpie markers.

“Landmark, Symbol, and Tradition” has in fact been reconfigured, enhanced and re-installed (complete with the brown paper commentary) at the Sweet Briar Museum, where it will be on view throughout the fall semester. The museum is located in the lower level of Boxwood Alumnae House. Fall semester hours are anticipated to be 1 to 4 p.m. Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. Admission is free. Visitors may call (434) 381-6248 for tours or special visiting arrangements.

William Glackens (1870-1938), "Daisies and Anemones," ca. 1930, oil on canvas, 24 1/2 x 20 in. First purchase made possible by The Friends of Art of Sweet Briar College, 1937.
William Glackens (1870-1938), “Daisies and Anemones,” ca. 1930, oil on canvas, 24 1/2 x 20 in. First purchase made possible by The Friends of Art of Sweet Briar College, 1937.

“We Are Sweet Briar” is on view until Oct. 18 in Benedict Gallery.

In nearby Pannell Gallery, “Made Possible by The Friends of Art: Building a College Collection” will feature about 50 paintings, prints and photographs acquired through the generosity and leadership of The Friends of Art of Sweet Briar College between 1937 and 2015. Individuals whose work will be shown include pillars of early 20th-century American art such as painters William Glackens and John Marin, as well as up-and-coming 21st-century artists such as Lalla Essaydi, Tara Donovan and Toyin Odutola. The mission of this philanthropic group of alumnae and College supporters is to foster the study of the visual arts on campus.

“The artworks purchased through its membership funds have formed the core of the Sweet Briar College art collection for nearly eighty years,” Lawson said.

“Its leaders’ exemplary service as stewards of this vital teaching resource has spurred the collection’s growth across the decades through a multitude of individual gifts from many wonderful supporters. As is true of any museum collection, ours is the result of dedicated leadership and sustained generosity.”

The exhibition is on view through Dec. 11.