Today Arcadia University’s main campus boasts four distinct spaces for exhibiting art, including the Judith Taylor Gallery in the Landman Library and the Harrison and Rosedale Galleries in the University Commons.
Anchoring the exhibition program is the internationally recognized Spruance Gallery (formerly the Beaver College Art Gallery and Arcadia University Art Gallery). 2015 marked the 30th anniversary of that Gallery’s move to its current location in the Benton Spruance Art Center.
The story of how the Gallery came to occupy its present home, and how it developed the reputation it enjoys today, begins in 1962 when Beaver College vacated its Jenkintown facilities, constructing seven new buildings simultaneously in order to consolidate operations on the Glenside campus.
Precious space was set aside by the planners of the new library for a modest gallery on the ground floor to display the artwork of faculty and students.
The history of this original exhibition space is marked by moments of extraordinary vision, a freak accident, and the tireless efforts of a collection of dedicated artists, educators, and patrons.
Using photographs, artworks, documents, and other artifacts from the university’s archives, this page chronicles the history of Arcadia University’s first exhibition space, the Richard E. Fuller Gallery.
With increased enrollments throughout the 1950’s straining the physical resources of Beaver College, then separated into two facilities in Jenkintown and Glenside, the Board of Trustees determined that the time had come to move forward with the long anticipated plan of merging the two campuses.
Beaver College would consolidate on the Glenside campus, the former William Welsh Harrison estate acquired by the college in 1929.
By 1960, a new dormitory, Thomas Hall, was complete, and plans were underway to add seven additional buildings to the estate’s original mansion, gatehouse, power station, and stable building, which had already been reclamated for the college’s purposes.
These new structures would provide additional dormitory space, a health services facility, a headquarters for the grounds crew, and classrooms. Despite this already ambitious construction schedule and the inherent costs involved, the Vice President of the Board of Trustees, Eugenia Fuller Atwood, foresaw that the newly consolidated campus would not be fully functional without the inclusion of a library.
Laying the cornerstone during the dedication ceremony for the new library, May 4, 1963. (From left to right) John W. Cornell Jr., president of the Board of Trustees, Dr. Edward Gates, president of Beaver College, and Eugenia Fuller Atwood, vice president of the Board of Trustees.
attributed to Earle D. Oakes (1923-2011), architectural rendering of Eugenia Fuller Atwood Library, c.1960, acrylic on canvas
Taking the initiative, Mrs. Atwood and her husband John made a personal donation of $300,000, the largest individual contribution Beaver College had ever received at the time, in order to partially fund the project.
The 29,600 square foot, modernist structure was designed by Philadelphia architects Martin, Stewart, Noble and Class. The interior included space for the circulating collection, a periodical room, study space, archives, and an art gallery.
The official dedication and cornerstone laying ceremony for The Eugenia Fuller Atwood Library took place on Saturday, May 4, 1963. By this time the college’s first dedicated gallery had been presenting exhibitions for the better part of a year.
Left: Eugenia Fuller Atwood Library. An exterior view of the north wall at dusk c. 1964. Right: The Touchstone, A publication documenting the library dedication ceremony speech delivered on May 4, 1963 by author and book collector Mary Crapo Hyde.
Plate with Illustration of Eugenia Fuller Atwood Library, Made by the Wedgwood factory, Etruria, England, Illustrated by Benton Spruance (1904-1967), 1967, Soft-Paste Porcelain with Transfer-Printed Design
Why a Gallery?
The Atwood Library gallery during the exhibition “Facts and Fads of Fashion: Depicting Recurring Cycles in Costumes, Accessories, and Textiles”, 1964, organized by Elsie McGarvey.
With the college stretching its resources to provide the most basic spaces in order for Glenside to serve as a completely self-contained campus, how was it possible to set aside one thousand square feet for use as a gallery?
The gallery’s inclusion in planning seems even more remarkable when coupled with the fact that the library itself was not originally considered necessary to facilitate the college’s consolidation to a single campus.
In all probability the decision was directed by the wishes of Eugenia Fuller Atwood, the primary donor. Mrs. Atwood was, like her mother, Margaret and her brother, Richard, a great patron of the arts. The Fuller family’s donations and personal art collections had lead to the establishment of the Seattle Art Museum in 1931. Later, in 1966, Mrs. Atwood and her husband John would also donate funds to expand the theater and art studios in Brookside Hall, which would eventually be renamed the Benton Spruance Art Center.
Mrs. Atwood as both a Beaver College board member and the principal donor for the building, would have had the requisite influence to ensure that space in the new library would be set aside for the arts.
“To call the cold, poorly lit room adjacent to the library lecture room a ‘gallery’ is a little presumptuous."
Though this reaction appears to have been the exception rather than the rule, looking back with a perspective influenced by contemporary gallery standards and practices, the exhibition space in the new Atwood Library would admittedly not be considered an ideal space for the presentation of art.
The gallery was located on the north side of the lower level of the library (the location of today’s Writing Center) and did not have a name. It was referred to variously as the Atwood Gallery, the Library Gallery, the Atwood Library Gallery and so on.
In its original state the 924 square foot rectangular room could be described generously as utilitarian. The walls were constructed of cinder block. Fiber-based panels, four feet in height and eight feet long, were mounted to the wall in a horizontal line that wrapped around the room at eye level so that art could be hung without having to drill into concrete.
Lighting consisted of long, cold fluorescent tubes that provided what the aforementioned Beaver News article described as “partial, sadly inadequate illumination.”
What the gallery lacked in amenities was made up for by a string of dedicated, insightful individuals who saw in the cinder blocks and fluorescent lights potential, and an opportunity to create something new.
Beaver College students visiting the gallery during the exhibition “Morris Berd, Anita Taylor: Sculpture - Drawings”, 1963. Pictured in the background is original gallery director John Hathaway.
By far the gallery’s most unique feature was the twenty-foot wide, floor-to-ceiling picture window.
Again and again, as demonstrated by the surviving images of the room while in use as a gallery, when photographers documented a reception or lecture, inevitably they would walk outside and shoot the space through the window.
View of the Atwood Library gallery through the picture window during the reception for “Jack Davis: Paintings, Drawings, Watercolors”, 1969. Photo by Robert C. Lee
In these images, especially the ones taken at night, rather than feeling “cold” and “poorly lit” as portrayed in alumni Tobi Steinberg’s scathing 1970 article about the venue, the gallery appears warm, inviting, and intimate.
The easy visual access to the exhibitions provided by the window to students and faculty traveling across campus made it a vital asset to the gallery.
Later the window’s size and accessibility would play a major role in the events surrounding the gallery’s move out of the library.
There was no official gallery director at Beaver College in 1962. The work of organizing and hanging exhibitions fell to the professors of the Art Department as part of their service to the College.
The Beaver College Art Department faculty c. 1960. (from left to right) John Hathaway, Elsie McGarvey (1912- 2000), Jean Francksen (1914-1996), Jane West Clauss (1907-2003), and Benton Spruance.
John Hathaway (1905–1987)
John Hathaway was the first professor to take on this responsibility in the new gallery. Hathaway began teaching at Beaver College in 1934. His artistic beginnings lay in the creation of stained glass. In 1929, after graduating from the Philadelphia College of Art, Hathaway was sent to Europe by the artist Lawrence B. Saint (1885-1961) to study the windows of the famed cathedrals of Europe. Hathaway eventually assisted Saint with the design of eighteen windows for the National Cathedral in Washington, D.C.
Hathaway’s stained glass designs can still be found in churches throughout Maryland and Pennsylvania, including three of the windows in Steitler Auditorium, a holdover from when the space was used as a chapel. He was also an accomplished painter and printmaker.
Hathaway was known for his calm demeanor, stylish appearance, and his propensity for collecting anything having to do with owls. Many of his students referred to him as “Uncle John”.
In addition to his responsibilities at Beaver, Hathaway taught at the Philadelphia College of Art (now the University of the Arts), the Cheltenham Art Center, the Allens Lane Art Center, the Graphic Sketch Club, and the Agnes Irwin School for Girls.
His most enduring legacy to Beaver College was the creation of a European study abroad program which offered his students the experience of viewing the artworks that had been so inspirational to him as a young man. These European excursions are some of the earliest manifestations of Arcadia’s international study abroad program.
Hathaway took over as art department chair upon the death of Benton Spruance in 1967, and retired from Beaver College in 1971.
Benton Spruance (1904–1967)
Benton Spruance, the internationally recognized lithographer and activist, was the enigmatic and influential chair of the Beaver College Art Department in 1962, a position he had held since 1932.
Spruance was also an important and dynamic personality in the Philadelphia art community. His pioneering work in color lithography brought forth innumerable accolades including two Guggenheim Fellowships, and his prints can still be found in permanent collections throughout the nation.
As a printmaker, Spruance’s output was prolific. It might have been more so, except for the fact that his passion for art making was matched by a love and devotion to teaching.
An important part of Spruance’s interaction with his students was his use of Lessing J. Rosenwald’s collection of rare art books and prints. Spruance and his students would frequently travel to Rosenwald’s home in Jenkintown (now the Abington Art Center) in order to view these important works in person.
As Spruance’s biographer Lloyd Abernethy described his teaching philosophy, “students should see, closely study, and, where possible, actually handle the original works under consideration.” No doubt Spruance would have seen a gallery on campus as a natural opportunity to extend this philosophy.
Though John Hathaway served in the role of gallery director, Spruance appears to have been directly involved with program development based on the types of exhibitions presented during this period.
In 1962 the gallery’s inaugural exhibition season included shows by Samuel Maitin (1928-2004), a well-known Philadelphia painter and printmaker, as well as Edna Andrade (1917-2008), considered one of the first op artists, both of whom were colleagues of Spruance’s at the Philadelphia College of Art (now the University of the Arts).
No records survive indicating how the collaboration between these two long-time friends and colleagues functioned. What is certain is that the programming choices that they made together at the outset of the gallery’s opening set an ambitious standard of quality for future contributors to maintain.
Spruance and the Gallery
Benton Spruance was represented in two solo exhibitions and three faculty shows, making him unquestionably the most exhibited artist in the Atwood Library gallery.
Left: Benton Spruance discussing his print Minotaur with Bronze Horns, (1963) during preparation for his one-person exhibition “Benton Spruance Recent Work on a Guggenheim”,1964. Right: A donation of Spruance prints to the College by Eunice Leopold spurred the 1983 exhibition “Spruance in the Sixties”, a survey of his later work. Art department chair Jack Davis and college president Dr. Bruce Wilson converse in front of two versions of Triumph of the Whale (1967).
By 1966 the art and theater departments had outgrown Brookside Hall. Eugenia and John Atwood once again came to the aid of the College by donating renovation funds.
View of the Brookside Hall addition in progress, 1968.
Phase one of the project, the expansion of the Little Theatre, forced the Art Department out of vitally needed studio spaces. Other spaces had to be found, and so, after only three seasons of exhibitions, the gallery was put into service as an upperclass painting studio.
Benton Spruance was able to convince the administration that this loss of studio space could not be sustained for long. The decision was made to move immediately forward with a plan to construct two new studio spaces off the south side of Brookside Hall.
Spruance wrote about this anxious time of transition.
The loss of the exhibition gallery in the Atwood Library is a good example of the curtailment of one of the finest services directed by the department. Fortunately for us all, this fine gallery will soon again be in full operation, displaying to an ever increasing audience a program of exhibitions, selected by the art faculty, and comprising the broad variety of professional work so recently enjoyed.
Spruance would never see the gallery reopened. By the time what he called the “Beaver Art Center” was completed, and the Atwood gallery was again hosting exhibitions instead of painting students, he would be gone, dead of a heart attack on December 6, 1967.
Pages from a handwritten draft of an article by Benton Spruance published posthumously in the January 1968 edition of The Beaver College Herald.
This is the year of the crab for the department of fine arts.
This is the year of the scattered classes; scattered as the winds blow the leaves of the beautiful trees around us.
This is the year of patience; of waiting. It is the time for the relationships between student and faculty member to be sternly tested; it is the long, cold winter demanding good humor on the part of all, if the dedication to creative expression is to persist in our college. The new addition to the fine arts complex is underway! With the completion of the enlarged little theatre, the first step in the realization of a Beaver Art Center was accomplished.
The usefulness and beauty of that facility have become part of the lives of students, faculty and community. The multiple use of the little theatre - playhouse, chapel, classroom and lecture hall - has given a new, splendid place for the large lecture groups in the History of Art courses and an adequately darkened area for visual aid presentation.
With the changes in the Little Theatre completed, the department of fine arts was benefitted, as here noted, but as well it was bereft of two important studio areas. The department’s program was curtailed not only in its plans for expansion - but in its offerings to its major students at that time. As well its ability to continue as a cultural...
environment serving all of the college was seriously inhibited.
Fortunately, not only for the department but for the college, this restriction, this curtailment was, from the beginning of the concept, known to be temporary. The loss of the exhibition gallery in the Atwood Library is a good example of the curtailment of one of the finest services directed by the department. Fortunately for us all, this fine gallery will soon again be in full operation displaying to an ever increasing audience a program of exhibitions, selected by the art faculty, and comprising the broad variety of professional work so recently enjoyed. For the time being it serves as an adequate painting studio for the working majors in the two upper classes.
These losses, these curtailments, were strong factors in the college’s decision to proceed immediately toward the second step in the completion of the Art Center. Following a year of planning and programming, ground was broken for that needed addition on August of this year.
The plan illustrated here indicates the extent of the project - one which will allow for the return of all studio groups to their proper, permanent locations and for a modest expansion of these groups when future enrollment requires it.
Exhibitions in the Atwood Library resumed in October, 1968 with a show of faculty work.
The exhibition illustrates how in the span of four years the complexion of the Art Department had completely changed. Of the four faculty who presented work in 1962 only John Hathaway and Jean Francksen remained. They presented work in this exhibition with Alma Alabilikian, Dean Gillette, Ted Moore, and Ruth Fine.
Jack Davis joined the department as chair in January, 1969. With more faculty, more majors, and larger facilities to oversee, the role of chair had become much more complex.
Davis would need to actively enlist the assistance of his peers and find cooperative ways of accomplishing tasks if the program were to continue to grow.
Like his predecessor, Davis looked upon the Atwood Library gallery as an opportunity to both expose the campus community to the most respected artists in the region, and to put Beaver College on the map as a center for arts and culture in the greater Philadelphia area.
He would work with Ruth Fine, and others to develop programming that would achieve this goal.
Exhibitions indicative of these goals included a show of studies, small paintings, and prints by Diane Burko and Neva Hansen in January 1971, and paintings by Larry Day in February 1972.
Two students assist new department chair Jack Davis install his one-person exhibition “Paintings, Drawings, Watercolors” in the Atwood Library gallery, 1969. Photo by Joseph Marchetti.
Jack Davis (1923–2011)
In January 1969 the college completed its search for someone to fill the leadership vacuum left by Benton Spruance’s passing. As it turned out they did not have to look far.
Jack Davis was serving as an assistant professor of painting just a few miles away at the Tyler School of Art.
Davis came to Beaver with an accomplished record both as an artist and an educator. Under his leadership the Department continued to expand its offerings.
An art history major was added to the curriculum in the fall of 1970. Davis also led the initiative to make the department’s senior thesis presentations more structured and academically rigorous. Today’s thesis process still reflects Davis’s influence.
Prior to an esteemed career as curator of modern prints and drawings, and then of special projects in modern art, at the National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC, Ruth Fine was a printmaking professor in Philadelphia.
Receiving her BFA from the Philadelphia College of Art in 1962, followed by an MFA at the University of Pennsylvania, in 1968 Fine found herself in the unenviable position of having to replace Benton Spruance.
Both Beaver College and the Philadelphia College of Art hired Fine in the wake of Spruance’s passing to teach “his” lithography courses. Fine had studied with Spruance, and not only carried on his classes, but also introduced her students to printmaking methods never before included in Spruance’s curriculum.
Fine was also asked to take on the responsibilities of directing the Atwood gallery. Highlights of her tenure include exhibitions by Diane Burko and Neva Hansen, and Larry Day (1921–1998).
Fine left Beaver College at the end of 1972 to take a position curating Lessing J. Rosenwald’s collection of rare prints, the same collection Spruance had once used with his students. After Mr. Rosenwald’s death in 1979 the collection traveled to the National Gallery and Fine accompanied it to Washington as its curator.
Ann Williams began teaching at Beaver College in 1969, receiving a promotion to assistant professor in 1978. Over her tenure she taught courses in drawing, painting, and visual fundamentals.
During this period, Jack Davis had assumed the role of director in addition to his responsibilities as Art Department chair. Davis’s strategy for balancing these tasks was to encourage his colleagues to approach him with suggestions for potential exhibitions.
Davis’s approach provided Williams and other faculty members with a freedom to solicit artists whom they felt might make relevant subjects for exhibitions. For example, Williams was able to approach painter Alex Katz to present his work at the gallery over a breakfast she attended during the annual conference of the College Art Association (CAA). Some of William’s other contributions to programming included invitations to both Alan Shields (1944–2005) and Alvin Loving (1935–2005).
William’s work in the 1978 “Beaver Faculty Exhibition”, a series of drawings of her husband in the round titled Peter Turning, led to a commission of a series of portraits of Lessing J. Rosenwald, whose collection of rare prints and books had played such a large part in Benton Spruance’s teaching.
Williams’s portraits of Rosenwald were included in his collection when it moved to the National Gallery upon his death in 1979.
Williams left the college in 1985 to serve as executive director of The Visual Arts Center of New Jersey (in Summit), where she continued to teach and develop gallery programming.
Judith Brodsky’s arrival at Beaver College in 1973, and her subsequent collaboration with Jack Davis, marked a significant shift in focus for the gallery’s programming.
Prior to Brodsky’s involvement, the gallery had been supported exclusively by funding from the College, which limited programming to exhibitions by students, faculty work, and notable artists working in the Philadelphia region.
Brodsky was able to procure grants from the National Endowment for the Arts as well as the Pennsylvania State Council on the Arts. This provided the gallery with the funds to broaden its programming to include some of the most significant artists working in America at that time. Artists brought to the college through these grants included; Lee Krasner, Faith Ringgold, Alice Neel (1900–1984), Dorothea Rockburne, Robert Morris, and Alex Katz.
Brodsky left Beaver College in the summer of 1978 to take a position at Rutgers University, where she eventually served in the capacities of dean and associate provost, as well as chairing the art department on the Newark campus. She currently holds the rank of distinguished professor emerita.
In addition to an active artistic practice, confirmed by works in over 100 permanent collections of museums and corporations throughout the world, Brodsky has continued to curate exhibitions and write extensively on the subjects of printmaking and the role of women in the creative arts.
In 1986 she founded The Rutgers Center for Innovative Print and Paper (renamed the Brodsky Center for Innovative Editions in her honor in September 2006), which provides artists access to facilities and expertise to support the creation of new works using reproductive media.
Lee Krasner (1908–1984)
Lee Krasner was the first artist brought to campus through National Endowment for the Arts funding.
In April 1974 the gallery mounted a traveling retrospective of Krasner’s work to coincide with the city-wide series “Philadelphia Focuses on Women in the Visual Arts.”
The former wife of imfamous painter Jackson Pollock (1912-1956), Krasner had just concluded a successful exhibition at the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York, and was enjoying a new recognition of her own contribution to abstract expressionism.
Left: Krasner lecturing in the gallery. Right: Lee Krasner accompanied by department chair Jack Davis as she discusses Sundial (1972).
Ringgold came to the college in February 1975, relatively early in her long, prestigious career. She would go on to receive two grants from the National Endowment for the Arts, as well as a Guggenheim Fellowship, amongst other distinguished awards.
In addition to her lecture “Feminist and Black Art”, Ringgold used the masks and costumes in her exhibition for a performance.
Faith Ringgold, left, discussing her sculpture with a student.
Eastern Pennsylvania Regional Drawing Exhibitions
This series of juried exhibitions played a significant role in the gallery’s goal of highlighting contemporary artists in the Philadelphia region.
The first juried drawing exhibition on the Beaver College campus, titled the “Regional Women’s Drawing Show”, took place in 1974. Like the Krasner retrospective this exhibition was presented as part of the “Philadelphia Focuses on Women in the Visual Arts” series.
The call for drawings by regional artists soon became an annual event. Each exhibition was juried by an esteemed curator, critic, or artist, and each show included a purchase award, admitting a work into the school’s permanent holdings.
The title of the exhibition was changed to “Works on Paper” in 1986 to more accurately reflect the scope of the work being selected. as well as the ways in which artists had begun to interpret the act of drawing.
“Works on Paper” remains a part of the programming of Arcadia University Art Gallery.
Judith Brodsky moderates the lecture “Drawing Today” presented in conjunction with the 1977 “Eastern Pennsylvania Regional Drawing Exhibition”. Participants included award winners Margarete Heuges, Carla Tudor, Doris Staffel, and Boris Putterman. To the right of the panel in this photograph can be seen Tudor’s drawing Housing Development in Great Falls, Va, also displayed below.
A Name at Last
Richard Eugene Fuller, co-founder of the Seattle Art Museum and brother of board member Eugenia Fuller Atwood passed away in December 1976.
On September 18, 1977, at an event held during that year’s faculty show, the exhibition space in the Atwood Library was dedicated as the Richard Eugene Fuller Gallery.
A small portrait of Fuller was hung on the north wall of the gallery to the right of the picture window. The inscription on the portrait read:
Richard Eugene Fuller Ph.D.
Art Connoisseur, Philanthropist, Scientist,
First Citizen Award, Seattle 1939
It remained a fixture in the space during all future exhibitions and well beyond the gallery’s move in March, 1985.
From left to right, John C, Atwood Jr., Eugenia Fuller Atwood, and their grandson Duncan at the dedication ceremony for the Richard Eugene Fuller Gallery, 1977.
Zina Goldsmith was working on a degree in painting through Beaver College’s continuing education program when she first became involved with the Richard E. Fuller Gallery. Showing an aptitude for gallery work, her responsibilities expanded steadily until she was assisting with the actual organization of exhibitions. Not long after earning her B.F.A. in 1979, Goldsmith was hired as the part-time director, making her the gallery’s first dedicated staff member.
Before there was an official director, by necessity, the entire faculty had been involved in the shaping of gallery programming. Though Goldsmith was now in a position to more fully control curatorial content, she continued to actively solicit the faculty for ideas regarding themes for shows as well as artists to exhibit.
Until 1983, Goldsmith ran the Fuller Gallery while simultaneously completing her M.F.A. in painting at the University of Pennsylvania. After the car accident and the gallery’s move to the Benton Spruance Art Center in 1985, Goldsmith was named full-time director of what became known as the Beaver College Art Gallery.
In 1987 Goldsmith left Beaver College to become the founding director of the Joseloff Gallery, a new 3,500 square-foot space at the University of Hartford in Connecticut. Under her leadership the venue quickly became one of the most distinguished university galleries in its region. She retired as director in 2010 and now lives in New York City, where she continues to work as an independent curator.
Barry Le Va
In 1982, the Fuller Gallery presented an exhibition focused on the work of one of the leading figures in post-studio and process art. “Barry Le Va: Drawings and Installation” featured a large, site-specific sculpture, Perspective Slot Drop I, composed of large aluminum spheres, fiberboard discs, and wooden planks.
Intended to impede the viewer’s movement about the space, the individual elements could be read as traces of the artist traversing the given room as the composition developed. This synthesis of the mental and physical is conveyed in Le Va’s map-like drawings as well, which were also included in the exhibition.
Le Va’s works have earned him numerous accolades, including a Guggenheim Fellowship, a National Endowment of the Arts grant, and inclusion in the 1977 and 1995 Whitney Biennials. His work is included in the permanent collections of the Art Institute of Chicago, the National Gallery of Art, and the Museum of Modern Art.
In 2005, the Institute of Contemporary Art in Philadelphia mounted a major retrospective of his work curated by Ingrid Schaffner.
Left: The photograph to the left from the Barry Le Va installation confirms that the cart and accompanying tool boxes displayed below were used to store various supplies and tools for installations in the Fuller Gallery. The cart is still used by the staff of the Arcadia University Art Gallery today.
On Monday, March 25, 1985 at approximately 4:30 PM Beaver College staff member Alice Lerro was driving behind the Eugenia Fuller Atwood Library when her accelerator pedal jammed and she lost control of her vehicle. In swerving to avoid hitting a student Ms. Lerro ran her mid-70s Cadillac through the twenty-foot wide picture window on the library’s ground floor and into the Richard E. Fuller Gallery.
The Accident, 1985, Photos by Tom Sciascia
Fortunately no one was injured, but several artworks from the “Eastern Pennsylvania Regional Drawing Exhibition” were destroyed, and the gallery was rendered unusable. As Suzanne Eckert ’84 and Deb Tonjes ’87 described the state of the gallery in their article for the April 4, 1985 Beaver News, “Freak Accident Occurs at Atwood Library”, “Part of this plaster-board covered cinder-block wall is ripped and smashed inward. Pieces of a display case rest against the rubble. A partially shattered ceiling light hangs overhead in front of the boarded up windows, and the floor is slick with anti-freeze.”
The upcoming exhibition was due to be installed in the gallery in three days. As repairs to the gallery could not be made in time, director Zina Goldsmith—forced to come up with an immediate alternative—quickly managed to transform the painting studio in the Benton Spruance Art Center into a temporary gallery.
Gallery director Zina Goldsmith in the Fuller Gallery amid the damage caused by the car accident, 1985.
The car accident proved to be the catalyst that ended the use of the Richard E. Fuller Gallery as the college’s primary art exhibition venue.
In the fall of 1985 the art department decided to make the former painting studio in the Spruance Art Center the gallery’s permanent home.
Gallery director Zina Goldsmith at the entrance to the newly opened Beaver College Art Gallery. Note the “painting” sign on the doorway still indicating the space’s previous function. Photo by Ira Joffe.
The accident alone does not fully explain this decision. A temporary move was certainly necessary, but the Fuller Gallery was eventually restored and could easily have continued to serve as the college’s main art gallery. In reality, the disruption caused by the accident was seen as an opportunity to make a move that director Zina Goldsmith and many others in the art department had been considering for some time.
The facilities in the library had been proving insufficient for the increasing attendance at receptions and lectures resulting from the expanded and ambitious programming. What would become known as the Beaver College Art Gallery was much closer to venues such as the Little Theatre or the Steitler Auditorium that could accommodate these larger crowds. The higher profile and historic location also made it easier for those traveling from the surrounding area to find the gallery once they arrived on campus.
The most important factor in the gallery’s move was its role as a support to the art department’s curricular goals. In the new venue art students could now walk out of their studios and have immediate access to world-class exhibitions.
The northwest room of the power plant building served a number of functions for the art department prior to its transformation into a gallery. Pictured here it is in use as a studio by a painting class taught by Jack Davis, c.1970.
An early exhibition in the Beaver College Art Gallery, c.1986. Photo by David Bennet.
With the advent of the Beaver College Art Gallery in the Benton Spruance Art Center, the Richard E. Fuller Gallery — the space which had hosted exhibitions by some of the most culturally significant artists working in the United States at that time — essentially became an extra room. Yet, despite the college’s myriad needs for space, somehow the former Fuller Gallery defied specific redefinition for many years.
From time to time the space was once again pressed into service as a gallery to present exhibitions of student or class artwork, to host a show brought in by the library, and even for a time to house the college’s collection of Benton Spruance prints. In 2000, gallery director Richard Torchia utilized both the Beaver College Art Gallery and the Fuller Gallery to present a large traveling exhibition “The Big G Stands For Goodness: Corita Kent’s 1960’s Pop”, the only time the art department utilized both spaces for a single exhibition.
In more recent years the space has been used to hold untold numbers of meetings, lectures, and classes. However, as late as the spring of 2013, if someone wished to reserve the long rectangular venue on the ground floor of the Landman Library utilizing the university’s online room scheduling system, they selected “the university gallery”—the last institutional vestige of the space’s former function.
Finally in the fall of 2013 the space became the new home to the university’s writing center. It now shares the ground floor of the library with the periodical stacks, a bank of computers, an office for academic technology, and the Judith Taylor Gallery, a former microfiche room converted into a student gallery in 2009, and named for the Arcadia University professor of photography who passed away in 2010.
For a campus that has grown and transformed so dramatically since the 1962 consolidation, there is a comforting sense of continuity in the fact that faculty, students, and the outside community can still walk down a set of stairs and find a gallery exhibiting art on the ground floor of the university’s library.
The “university gallery” room c. 2000. Photo by Richard Torchia.