Georgetown will open a 2,500-square-foot art gallery in the Edmund A. Walsh Building in fall 2017 after receiving an unspecified donation from alumni Maria (CAS ’87) and Alberto de la Cruz (CAS ’89).
The de la Cruz Gallery of Art will serve as a space for travelling exhibitions and historical artwork from museums across Washington, D.C., as well as pieces from Georgetown undergraduate and graduate students. It will serve as a complement to the Lucile M. and Richard F.X. Spagnuolo Art Gallery, which opened in 1958, also located in Walsh.
The gallery will replace the Walsh Black Box Theater, which previously served as the university’s main auditorium. The donation was announced two weeks ago.
Art History Department Chair Alfred Acres said that the new gallery space will increase opportunities for students to showcase their work.
“We anticipate now being able to curate a fair number of our shows here at Georgetown,” Acres said. “This is a chance to dramatically expand the kinds of things that can be shown, and with a bigger space, it just multiplies the opportunities.”
The de la Cruz gallery will feature painting, sculpture and installation pieces, while the existing Spagnuolo Gallery will be used to display other types of art.
“One idea that we have approached but not settled on with the Spagnuolos is to specialize the gallery in photography and works on paper,” Acres said. “The actual gallery and lighting work especially well for such exhibitions.”
The university has yet to release an official statement on the donation. University Spokesperson and Director of Media Relations Rachel Pugh did not respond to requests for comment.
The de la Cruz family of Miami, Fla., currently owns a private art collection. Alberto de la Cruz’s parents, Carlos and Rosa de la Cruz, operate the private de la Cruz Gallery in Miami.
In an interview with the Washington City Paper, Alberto de la Cruz emphasized Georgetown’s need for more spaces dedicated to exhibiting student artwork.
“Most universities have space to show art,” Alberto de la Cruz said. “There’s nothing like that for Georgetown.”
Alberto and Maria de la Cruz could not be reached for comment.
According to Vice President of Advancement R. Bartley Moore (SFS ’78), the addition of the de la Cruz Gallery is an important step in providing students with a liberal arts education.
“For the community of faculty and student artists at Georgetown, I think the commitment to the gallery shows that their work is important, more important than ever, in a university firmly rooted in the liberal arts tradition … especially when we’re all feeling some pressure to make a college education more preprofessional and more about employable skills,” Moore wrote in an email to The Hoya.
Moore cited this donation as a significant example of fundraising partnerships between the university and alumni.
“Fundraising is most rewarding, and frankly easiest, when something the university wants or needs to do aligns neatly with something our donors care passionately about,” Moore wrote.
The Walsh Black Box Theater, which is used by student theater and dance groups, will be closed by the end of the academic year to prepare for the construction of the new gallery. Director of Theater and Performance Studies Maya Roth said that the university needs to reserve more space for performing arts after the theater closes.
“We needed to be promised alternate venues,” Roth said. “Performing arts clubs are being taken care of, with us assured no sum loss of venues for rehearsal and for performance.”
In an email sent to performing arts faculty and student groups over the summer, Department of Performing Arts Administrative Director Ron Lignelli said that the replacement of the Black Box with the gallery will be beneficial to the arts community on campus.
“[The art department] for over 15 years urgently needed to increase its gallery footprint,” Lignelli wrote. “All told, we’re glad that art is going to get a space … and that our highly active ensembles will continue to enjoy space access for the flourishing array of rehearsal and performance experiences.”
According to Acres, the de la Cruz Gallery is an exceptional addition to the university’s art scene.
“I see this as transformational for Georgetown,” Acres said. “It’s not an addendum to our existing program, but it will provide for our community an entirely new kind of space for dealing with art right now and the place art has in our education and the world. We are genuinely excited about this new gift.”
Art history student Sarah Jane Kim (COL ’18) applauded the university’s effort to bring greater attention to the art world.
“I believe that this gallery opening will be a major step into growing Georgetown in the creative arts field,” Kim said. “I love attending the galleries and museums in the downtown D.C. area, but to have that at Georgetown would feel much more intimate and have its own charm of a Hilltop touch.
Hoya Staff Writer Ashwin Puri contributed reporting.
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