Helena Memorial Hall continues to undergo renovations as it prepares to house the Western art collection of Leland and LaRita Boren.
Special Assistant to the President Ron Sutherland is helping to oversee the project during these early stages. Part of his responsibilities in his current role is that he handles facility planning and operations.
According to Sutherland, the university hopes the renovations will be completed by the end of the year. The actual exhibit, which consists of over 400 paintings, may not open until April of 2022. The collection is currently being held by the Avis Corporation, and it will not be moved to campus until the renovations at the old admissions building are complete.
Once the art arrives, a portion will be displayed in the gallery while the remainder of the collection will be placed in storage.
“One of the things that we learned in doing some initial work on receiving the collection is that the best galleries and museums don’t display all of the artwork at once, because otherwise, people come once and they’re done,” Sutherland said. “And so you want to encourage them to come back multiple times.”
As for a curator, the university is still in the hiring process and no official decision has been made, according to Sutherland. The university’s art department has been put in charge of hiring a gallery director.
Aside from the hundreds of paintings, the Borens’ collection also includes bronzes. Sutherland has still not had the opportunity to view the entire collection, but he has been impressed by the glimpses he’s gotten so far.
“I can look at a picture I’ve taken or a bronze, and it can remind me of the handiwork of God’s creation,” Sutherland said. “It’s a part of a process that can usher us into the presence of God as we worship his creation, his creativity and how he makes humans and all of those various forms. It’s a part of worship that we get to appreciate.”
Bringing the community closer to creation and giving Upland a taste of the Southwestern United States are just a couple of the goals Sutherland and the university hope to accomplish through the exhibit.
Other hopes involve using the gallery for receptions, creating connections among those who may not be familiar with Taylor and providing educational experiences to students at the elementary up through the college level.
“Arts tends to be one of those programs that gets cut, unfortunately,” Sutherland said. “If we can help supplement that and create interest in our area, we feel like that could be a really great opportunity.”
The upcoming exhibit looks to continue what has already been an exciting and eventful school year for the university and the art department. Kenneth Steinbach’s “I Love Only You” is currently occupying the Metcalf Gallery. Other shows this year have included the 2021 Alumni Art & Design Exhibition, which had its closing reception on Oct. 9.
For Interim Provost Tom Jones, it’s a special and invigorating time to be associated with Taylor and its continued commitment to the arts scene here in Upland.
“Our aspiration is that Taylor would be a place where the Boren collection represents really the beginning of a much greater appreciation for the arts,” Jones said. “(Our aspiration would be) that Taylor is a place, given the limitations that we have, (where) students are able, in a firsthand way, (to) engage in good art.”