Campus art museum under new management

Celeaciya Olvera

Augustana College is known as a small liberal arts institution with a wide variety of areas to study from the medical field to the fine arts. Recent construction work at Augustana has caused buzz within the community, but there is more to the current rennovation of Bergendoff Hall of Fine Arts than meets the eye.

In Bergendoff, there have been several months of ongoing construction and renovation of old rooms to make the inside have much more potential. 

Tucked in Bergendoff’s basement, the formerly known “Museum of Art” in Centennial Hall will have a new name, the “Center of Visual Culture,” and more space to allow professors and students to learn more about art and art history.

Vickie Phipps, director of the Center of Visual Culture and chair of the art department, wants more than anything for the college community to have access to the collection the department has accumulated over the years. 

“I want the community to learn together at the Center of Visual Culture. I don’t think we’re going to teach people to be creative. The goal isn’t to have you come and stare at artwork; the goal is to do what we do across campus,” Phipps said. “I think of our campus as an art campus. I think of our classrooms as infused with creativity… We’re all makers and thinkers.”

A large issue the art department notices is how inaccessible it is for students and professors to come and see the permanent collection in Centennial Hall.

Senior Andrew Gray has worked in the center of visual culture within the past year, where he unpacked some pieces that tell interesting stories and has learned the importance of art provided by a college.

“There have been talks about having different professors from different majors being able to handle artwork and use it for their classes,” Gray said. “We have a lot of household name artists in our collection: Picasso, Andy Warhol, Matisse. Huge names but you would never know it.”

The access to the previous museum of art has been limited since the COVID-19 pandemic, however the art department as a whole is beyond thrilled to finally have the space to showcase the pieces as they were intended.

Senior Hannah Knuth had the opportunity to go through the collection Augustana has and select the art pieces to go into President Talentino’s home. 

Some of the pieces were significant to Augustana because some of the creators were past generations of the founders of the college.

“We went through all of the collections and found a lot of Swedish art. Since we are a Swedish-based school, it was cool we had those resources,” Knuth said. “We also have a lot of pieces connected to family members of the original founders of the school.”

Art was not just made to look at it, it was made to have conversations about the understanding of all of human cultures and to wonder why someone decided to create the piece they are looking at.

The vision is to broaden the collection more connected to students. The Center of Visual Culture will be such a principal stopping point for all students and staff once the facilities are open up, so students should make sure to keep their eyes out within the next year about information.

“Our collection needs to change. Some of our goals will be making our collection as diverse as our student body,” Phipps said.