‘Cultivating Collections’ on display through July 26 at Fine Art Museum

The “Cultivating Collections: Contemporary Native American Art” gallery includes this work, “For Arizona Denials,” by the Native American artist Edgar Heap of Birds. The piece was purchased with funds from the Cherokee Preservation Foundation.

Western Carolina University’s Fine Art Museum is highlighting its permanent collection this summer with a new exhibition, “Cultivating Collections,” that opened June 4.

The exhibition focuses on three strengths of the museum’s collection that the curatorial team expects to grow over the next five to 10 years: photography, artist books and contemporary Native American art. As the museum expands its holdings of more than 1,800 works of art, those concentration areas will provide a foundation for future directions in collecting, said Jill Jacobs, marketing manager for WCU’s John W. Bardo Fine and Performing Arts Center, which includes the Fine Art Museum and performance hall.

One of the most notable galleries in the exhibition is “Cultivating Collections: Photography,” which was curated by undergraduate and graduate students taking the “Exhibition Practicum” course at WCU, Jacobs said. Featuring regionally and nationally known photographers — many who visited, taught, studied or exhibited at WCU during their careers — that gallery brings a student perspective to the museum’s ever-expanding photography collection.

As part of the course, students selected works to display, interviewed artists and evaluated strengths and opportunities for the collection. The works they chose for display represent a variety of photographic processes with subject matter ranging from still-lifes and landscapes to emotionally charged images addressing war and personal trauma. Featured artists include Ed Ruscha, Fran Forman, Pinky Bass, Susan Harbage Page, Drew Cameron, John Dickson, David Packer, Susan Alta Martin, Ken Abbott, Herman Goustin, Alice Sebrell, Cathryn Griffin and Ian Ward.

“Cultivating Collections: Artist Books” highlights objects united by the artists’ desire to express an idea through a book-like format. WCU’s Fine Art Museum holds over 100 artist books by American artists. Those include altered books, visual narratives, conceptual books, sculptural volumes and works that combine poetic text and imagery.

The Fine Art Museum also has a strong commitment to exhibiting contemporary Native American art as a regular part of the museum’s changing exhibitions program, Jacobs said. Over the past 15 years, many of those exhibitions inspired purchases and donations of artwork to help the museum deepen its focus in that area. The art on view in “Cultivating Collections: Contemporary Native American Art” features a selection of the works acquired during that period.

A reception for “Cultivating Collections” will be held at the Fine Art Museum from 5 to 7 p.m. Thursday, July 25. The exhibition closes Friday, July 26.

“Cultivating Collections” is part of an exhibition series that takes an in-depth look at growth areas of the museum’s permanent collection as a way for the curatorial team to plan for future acquisitions. The exhibition series will continue next summer and culminate in the publication of a catalogue that describes the focus areas of the museum’s collection. The catalogue is expected to be published in 2020, the 15-year anniversary of the Bardo Arts Center.

Regular museum hours are Tuesday through Friday, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., and Thursday until 7 p.m. For information, call 828-227-ARTS or visit bardoartscenter.wcu.edu.