Weatherspoon Museum celebrates 75th anniversary

by Kashif Stone

As the Weatherspoon Museum celebrates 75 years of service to UNCG and the community, they also envision the future of what Weatherspoon’s role might be as one of Greensboro’s most important cultural assets. The Weatherspoon was founded in 1941 by Gregory Ivy, first head of the Art Department at Woman’s College, now UNC-Greensboro. Initially called The Weatherspoon Art Gallery, in 2001 its name changed to Museum to more fully represent what the Weatherspoon would become.

Until the Anne and Benjamin Cone building was built specifically for the museum and the UNCG Art History department, it was situated in inadequate locations that had limited exhibition and storage space. More recently, like other similar entities, the museum has experienced reduced state support that has caused a reduction in staff and programming.

The Museum serves a broad audience of nearly 35,000 visitors annually, including UNCG students, faculty and staff; the Greensboro/High Point/Winston Salem communities; and visitors from across the nation. The museum has grown from a teaching gallery with a small art collection to a fully professional museum that is nationally recognized for its collection of approximately 6,000 artworks and dynamic exhibition program. Exhibitions include work by outstanding artists of national and international reputation; thematic exhibitions on timely aesthetic, cultural, and social issues; small focused exhibitions of emerging artists; selections from the permanent collection; UNCG MFA thesis shows and faculty biennials; and the Falk Visiting Artist exhibitions, a collaborative program with the UNCG Department of Art.

The Weatherspoon exhibits work made by well-known figures in the history of art, like Pablo Picasso, Helen Frankenthaler, Willem de Kooning, Cindy Sherman, and Henri Matisse. Recently the Weatherspoon have shown large-scale sculptural installations by Tom Burckhardt, Nancy Rubins, and Diana Al-Hadid, who are a mix of established, mid-career, and critically recognized artists. This summer the Museum will be showcasing Matisse’s drawings, prints, and sculpture – running from June through October.

In addition to a schedule of more than 15 exhibitions each year, the museum maintains a full roster of educational activities, publications, and outreach efforts as integral components of its overall program. Educational offerings include: docent-led tours, gallery talks, lectures, and panel discussions, film series, and hands-on workshops, to name a few.

Gaining both local and national recognition, the Weatherspoon is the recipient of several competitive grant awards, for example, the National Endowment of the Arts, the Institute for Museums and Library Services, The Andy Warhol Foundation, and the North Carolina Arts Council.

The reputation of the Weatherspoon also prompted the gift of two noteworthy collections of works on paper: the Wynn and Sarah-Ann Kramarsky Collection (in 2000) and the Herbert and Dorothy Vogel Collection (in 2008).

With 2016 marking the 75 th anniversary of The Weatherspoon, the Museum looks forward to a year full of celebrations. “On January 7 th , we raised a glass of champagne and listened to 1940s music in celebration of the founding of the Museum 75 years ago,” said museum curator Elaine Gustafson. “We will present a lively roster of signature exhibitions, as well as our annual summer solstice party. Lastly, we will host the party of the season on Saturday, October 1; proceeds for this ticketed gala will go towards a special endowment fund that will help secure the Weatherspoon’s financial sustainability in the future.”

The Weatherspoon Art Museum exhibits and interprets modern and contemporary art for the benefit of its multiple audiences. Through these activities, the museum recognizes its paramount role of public service, and enriches the lives of diverse individuals by fostering an informed appreciation and understanding of the visual arts and their relationship to the world in which we live. !