ASWU to vote on purchase of dining hall art

by Christina Spencer

Four paintings currently hang in the new expansion of the dining hall that are portraits of Whitworth professors painted by former Whitworth art professor Stephen Rue. The set of paintings were loaned to the school for a year, but now Whitworth has the opportunity to purchase them to become a part of Whitworth’s permanent art collection, Tad Wisenor, director of campaign planning, said.

The paintings originally hung in a show at the Jundt Museum at Gonzaga University in 2011.

In total, the paintings are worth more than $8,000, but Rue has offered to give two of the paintings if Whitworth buys the other two. However, if the paintings are not bought, they will be returned to the artist after the loan.Dee Anna Christiansen, academic program assistant of the art department, is in charge of the permanent art collection and is in favor of having Whitworth buy the pieces.

“It is a really great opportunity for the university to own some significant pieces,” Christiansen said. “The artist is being very generous.”

Christiansen said the Whitworth Art Committee helps select pieces of art to add to the university’s permanent art collection. They seek to acquire words of high quality created by professional artists. The pieces from the collection can be seen throughout campus, including the Lied Art Center, Weyerhaeuser Hall and the chapel. Each is labeled as part of the permanent collection with a gray tag listing the piece’s title and artist name.

“The Whitworth Art Committee believes that an environment enriched by the visual arts is central to the liberal arts tradition as well as representing an authentic element of our Christian heritage,” Christiansen said.

Wisenor, who was the first to request that the university buy the paintings, said Rue’s set of paintings would be a strong addition because they are works of a professional and the subjects are of Whitworth professors.

The ASWU senators will decide whether or not to purchase the paintings. Sophomore Chelsea Myhre, senator of Arend, said replacing the paintings would also be a lot of work since they are so large (40 by 30 inches) and it would be hard to find another four pieces that are artistically compatible.

Wisenor said he knows everyone has different opinions about works of art. He said students should spark conversations to find out the meaning of an artwork if they don’t like or or don’t understand it.

“I’m really excited that Whitworth is trying to buy pieces that challenge people to think, instead of just putting up a painting of a landscape that becomes easily forgettable,” Wisenor said.

Funding has come from several sources so far. The class of ‘91 decided to contribute towards this as part of their 20-year reunion gift, and a family friend of Whitworth (parents of a former student) also donated one third of the cost. Because of these combined contributions, there is currently $1,100 left that ASWU has been requested to fund with the unallocated budget.

Myhre said they will be deciding whether the collection of paintings would be a good contribution to the long-term campus atmosphere and a worthwhile investment for the students. Whether or not the senators decide to buy the paintings is based on the overall feedback they are getting from the students.

Each senator took a “temperature survey” of a dorm to find out how the student body felt about the paintings. Myhre surveyed Stewart Hall and said she found that while many students felt the paintings were interesting, many students also expressed dislike of them. Taking this into consideration, the ASWU senators will vote on Wednesday.

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