RIT Art Collection

Amassed over many years, this growing collection showcases RIT talent and reflects the university's visual arts curriculum since 1886. Thousands of works, including hundreds by faculty, students and alumni illustrate the historical range of art programs offered at RIT and testify to the generosity of many individuals who have made a donation to RIT. Many of the works, in particular the large scale pieces, have been purchased specifically for display on campus, while a number of smaller pieces hang in offices in various buildings. The entire collection has an important educational component, offering RIT students an opportunity to experience visual art first-hand and see works in their chosen field, providing a historic context for their learning. Exhibitions of works from the art collection are organized regularly in the Wallace Center exhibit spaces.
Some of the collection can be viewed at the RIT Art on Campus website. This site provides thumbnails, brief biographical statements and a location, if the piece is on display.

Areas of focus:           

Art Works by Faculty, Students, and Alumni   

Painting of a winter landscapeRIT Archive Collections holds thousands of works that relate directly to RIT's rich history of visual arts education. Reaching back to the 19th century and the earliest days of the Mechanics Institute, art courses in freehand drawing, clay modeling, painting, illustration and decorative design prepared students for a trade, industry or teaching. Today's programs in the present College of Imaging Arts and Sciences remain remarkably similar to the earlier offerings, with major programs in fine arts, crafts, design, industrial design, illustration, photography and film and animation. A collection of student work in various 2-d disciplines, many of them classroom exercises and projects and dating from 1886 through the 1970s, demonstrate the curriculum first-hand, and attest to historical changes in style and taste.

Painting of a doveMajor collections, such as alumnus Bernie Boston's photojournalistic work documenting the American social and political scene from the 1960s to the 1980s, former student Jeanette Klute's beautiful dye transfer prints of plants and flowers in their native habitat, and former faculty member Frans Wildenhain's ceramics collection offer opportunities for in-depth study of the output of a single artist. Other highlights include paintings and prints by Eugene Colby, first teacher at Mechanics Institute, and Clifford Ulp, longtime head of the art department. And finally, portraits of  RIT notables are found in the collection, including portraits of RIT presidents and trustees by former faculty members Stanley Gordon and Ralph Avery.

Pieces Acquired for Display on Campus

Abstract painting of yellow squaresThis collection includes some of the most important and well-known pieces on campus, including the 73 foot high Sentinel by Albert Paley, the Josef Albers murals in the main entrance area of the Eastman administration building and the Henry Moore sculpture in the Eastman Kodak quad. When RIT's Henrietta campus was built in the 1960s, one percent of construction costs were put aside to purchase major art works, and the university continues to commission works for new spaces, including the atrium floor by Larry Kirkland in the Gosnell building and the most recent work, a glass wall by RIT graduate Nancy Gong in the Center for Student Innovation.

Purchased and Donated Works

Painting of an avery treeeWorks have come to RIT from a variety of sources. Many have been donated, but the university has always invested in art. During  the twentieth century a particularly active period resulted in the acquisition of a number of paintings, art prints, and illustration works.  The function of these works was twofold - they were meant to be displayed but they also related directly to the focus of RIT art programs and were intended to provide an opportunity for students to view art made by professionals first-hand in a classroom setting. The works purchased at this time also have a decidedly local flavor, with regional and upstate artists well represented, but individuals with national reputations can also be found in the collection. Paintings works by local artist Ralph Avery and  former faculty member Bob Conge, as well as Charles H. Woodbury, nationally known for his depictions of the New England seacoast. A collection of approximately 200 art prints includes works by major figures such as Thomas Bewick, Grant Wood and Milton Avery, as well as Rochester based James Havens renowned for his delicate woodcuts. Other highlights include a pen and ink drawing by Charles Dana Gibson, famous for his iconic Gibson Girl and a vase by influential British ceramist  Bernard Leach.

Purchase Prize Collections

Collage of a cup in with textEach year the library purchases art works from MFA graduate students in the School of Art and Design and School for American Crafts and from the Student Honor Show, a juried exhibition open to students in the School of Photographic Arts and Sciences. Many of these works are on exhibit and can be seen on every floor of The Wallace Center. A website of the art purchase prize works can be seen at  http://library.rit.edu/depts/ref/speccoll/art_col.html#ae and for the Photo Purchase Prize Collection at http://library.rit.edu/depts/ref/speccoll/ppp/.