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Elon celebrates redesigned Arts West gallery

A gift from Adjunct Assistant Professor Barbara Rhoades in honor of her father and great aunt has doubled the space available for campus exhibits in an Arts West venue now named Gallery 406.

Adjunct Assistant Professor Barbara Rhoades made a gift to Elon University that has allowed the Department of Art and Art History to double the size of a gallery that greets visitors to the Arts West location on West Haggard Avenue.

The Elon University community gathered Saturday evening for a ribbon-cutting reception to celebrate the renovation and expansion of an art gallery made possible by the generosity of an adjunct assistant professor of fine art.

The newly named Gallery 406 in the Arts West building at 406 West Haggard Ave. welcomed visitors on Sept. 28 from 5:30-6:30 p.m. for the formal event. Benefactor Barbara Rhoades, Elon University President Leo M. Lambert and Associate Professor Michael Fels delivered brief remarks about the importance of the gallery in growing the university's art programs.

Alison Morrison-Shetlar, dean of Elon College, the College of Arts and Sciences, also was in attendance.

Rhoades made her gift to Elon to honor her great aunt, Katharine Nash Rhoades, an early 20th century American painter and poet, and her father, John Harsen Rhoades, who believed that international travel was critical to personal and spiritual growth.

“Aunty K,” as Barbara Rhoades affectionately calls her great aunt, left behind an extraordinary collection when she died in 1965. Rhoades brought parts of that collection to auction last year, and the unexpected proceeds allowed her to make sizeable contributions to charities dear to her heart, including the Red Cross and the Durham Rescue Mission.

But it was Elon University that Rhoades described as an “easy give” because of the school’s commitment to the broader community.

Barbara Rhoades with Elon University President Leo M. Lambert

“I used to work in nonprofits and was also involved in a group of agencies, being on the boards of different groups. Elon, more than any of the others, stays true to its educational mission. I admire that,” Rhoades said. “I've enjoyed the art department and think we’re a very supportive group. And I admire the energy of the people in the group to keep moving the department forward.

“Standards keep getting raised, and the care for students is really strong. You can feel it in the faculty’s efforts to spend time with their students. I’m proud to be a part of that.”

Fels described the original gallery as “too limited in scale” for many of the exhibitions that art professor had wanted to bring to campus. It also was too small to host guest speakers, and since the building doesn't have a proper place for a speaker and a larger audience, some guests were hosted in a different building.

The renovations provide the dynamic space faculty sought. The gallery itself has become the entrance of the building, so that every time visitors enter, they will be engaging with art.

The first exhibition in Gallery 406 featured ceramic wall tiles by Nowal Motawi and highly crafted contemporary furniture created by Jim Hopfensperger. A new exhibit by artist Morgan Craig opens in the space starting Sept. 30.

The department also plans to host films for students and communities alike with a wider variety of exhibitions.

From left: Michael Fels, Barbara Rhoades and Alison Morrison-Shetlar

“We are all overwhelmed and most appreciative,” said Fels, chair of the Department of Art and Art History. “This single act of generosity has opened the doors to literally transform our program, as well as making our building a destination on campus. Her gift has also helped us take strides in developing an authentic artistic community in and around the building.”

In addition to the renovated gallery, Rhoades’s gift established The Rhoades Endowment, a scholarship to help art or art history students who need financial assistance to study abroad. She also provided funding for the Department of Performing Arts to bring to campus guest artists, or to encourage faculty and student collaborations.

What would her great aunt and her father think about the gift in their memories?

“My father would be thrilled, I think, and he’d feel excited that Aunty K was being honored,” Rhoades said. “Aunty K would probably have liked to have her name fade with history. She would not want to be famous. However, everyone in the family realized that she didn’t much have a choice about that.

“She was too involved in too many moments in history to try to fade away.’”

Eric Townsend,
9/27/2013 2:55 PM