Universities across the United States are upping their art game. A university art gallery provides a unique educational service to the school and the community, however universities are now seeing them in a much more lucrative light. With numerous considerations in mind, colleges are putting more money towards the development of these spaces. A higher caliber exhibition space tends to impress prospective students and satisfy alumni wishes. Many university art galleries provide a space for student and staff work to be displayed as well as other local and traveling exhibitions. However, some colleges have surpassed this ideal, establishing a gallery that acts as its own entity and are actually rivaling traditional art institutions.
This fall, Virginia Commonwealth University will open its Institute of Contemporary Art, a 41,000 sq. ft. building with a world famous architect behind the $41 million project. Not to mention Renzo Piano at Harvard University, Zaha Hadid at Michigan State, and the new $50 million exhibition space opening at Duke this fall. These impressive projects set an example of worthy financials distributed towards the arts for the greater community benefit. Not only will these organizations provide educational arenas for both students and locals, but many will provide professional opportunity.
As a previous student and gallery attendant to a University Art Gallery, I can contest to the full breadth of benefits that this space provided me and other students. The opportunity to experience hands on work in a museum setting not only provides a wealth of knowledge for professional growth, but interest, involvement and the confidence to continue as an occupation. For students not involved behind the scenes, the galleries can offer endless inspiration in the form of artist talks and tours. And while these spaces usually function on a donation basis, similar to traditional art museums, this trend of universities providing more financial support can only increase the possibilities, upgrading not only the college, but the town it resides in.