GC Foundation owns art collection 

Amy Lynn McDonald | Editor-in-Chief | Nov. 20, 2019

A sketch from former dean of arts and science, Ken Proctor, at the Museum of Fine Arts on Nov. 6
Amy Lynn McDonald | Editor-in-Chief

There are roughly 2,000 pieces of art in GC’s permanent collection, and the Georgia College & State University Foundation owns roughly 85%. The collection includes paintings, prints, sculptures and textile works intended to display around the campus.

However, these art holdings are only a small portion of the foundation’s net worth. 

According to the latest 990 form spanning from July of 2017 to June of 2018, “works of art, historical treasures, or other similar assets held for public exhibition, education, or research” are worth $891,091 out of the foundation’s total net worth of $34,327,313 or 2.6%. The permanent art collection is included in this percentage, along with items the foundation owns in Andalusia and the Old Governor’s Mansion are included in the total for works of art and historical treasures.

“We accept items on behalf of the Old Governor’s Mansion, Andalusia, our Special Collections and Archives, as well as our art department and our museum,” said Monica Delisa, the executive director of the foundation. 

Paintings by Panhandle Slim hang in the Museum of Fine Arts on Nov. 6
Amy Lynn McDonald | Editor-in-Chief

The foundation functions in tandem with the university itself. It is listed as a 501c3 non-profit with a goal to  “encourage, solicit, receive and administer gifts and bequests” according to the 990 tax documents. The 501c3 status means the foundation is exempt from paying taxes, and all donations made to the foundation are tax-deductible for donors.

Individuals and companies can donate money to the foundation for things like scholarships and academic programs, or they can donate items such as artwork or historical artifacts to be preserved and enjoyed for generations. 

A majority of the collection is donated to the foundation by alumni artists or parties interested in adding to the cultural landscape of GC, such as the Japanese are hanging in Peabody Auditorium, donated by Jim and Carol Dew of Atlanta.

Larger collections, such as the Kaplan collection, can take years to acquire, from the first stages of hearing about it to finally bringing the works into the Museum of Fine Arts. Aspects of this process include examining the ownership history of the art and analyzing what kind of storage space and maintenance it might require.

Sometimes works are donated to the foundation through wills of alumni or other art collectors who want to know their collections will be will-preserved and enjoyed by young minds eager to learn.

Despite the art collection representing a small percentage of the foundation’s bottom line, the artwork serves an important role on campus: it connects students to previous generations of GC artists as well as artists and styles from around the world.

In the past three years, the foundation has received 196 paintings from an African school in the Congo, over 800 pieces from noted printmaker Jerome Kaplan and smaller items from the former dean of GC’s College of Arts and Sciences, Ken Proctor.

“Part of donating art is you just can’t donate the piece, you need to donate financial support for its care, like framing and cleaning,” said Laura Wilson, the collections manager in the Museum of Fine Arts.

This is especially true for large collections like the Kaplan prints.

These funds are managed by the foundation or put into an account earmarked for the art department to care for the pieces, Wilson said. 

The foundation retains most of the art to ensure ease of deaccession in the future. Deaccession is the removal of a piece from the collection, usually from a sale. 

“The reason we would keep items is because once they become the property of the state, once they become a university piece of property, they can never be deaccessioned,” Delisa said. “You can’t sell state property.”

Per their policy, the foundation will not deaccession a piece without the consent of the donor. If a donor explicitly states they want their pieces to stay in the hands of the university, ownership of the piece will be transferred to GC.

All of the pieces, both those owned by GC and the foundation, are housed in the Museum of Fine Arts in the Underwood House. Most of the pieces are there in storage, while some hang in the gallery at the Underwood House, Leland Gallery and in the Peabody Auditorium. 

For students in the museum studies program, these galleries are a training ground for their future careers. 

The Museum of Fine Arts offers internships for students to gain experience in cataloging and organizing collections, while the Leland Gallery provides a space where groups of students or individuals can curate an entire show.

Classes in the museum studies program curate shows together, starting with selecting art from the permanent collection all the way to installation. This allows students a safe environment to discuss what pieces can work together, how to display different mediums and ways to make an exhibit flow from one piece to another. 

“These few years of experience made me more confident, being able to curate a show in the real world,” said Grace Callaway, a senior art major with a concentration in museum studies. 

Because of her experiencing curating a show, Calloway feels confident reaching out to an artist and curating a show of their work alongside another museum studies student, Sophie Daniel, for their senior capstone. 

The two women are using their experiences curating shows out of GC’s permanent collection to springboard into the full experience of selecting, curating and installing a show for the final project as seniors. Their senior capstone show opens in Leland Gallery in January. 

In the future, art on our campus will not be contained to the galleries or one special room. There are plans in the works for professors to select pieces for the office and for art to be a visual focal point in the new science building.

“Art is inspirational,” said Wilson. “It’s creative and allows people to express opinions and differing views freely, and I think that’s especially important in an educational environment.”