The McIninch Art Gallery, located in Robert Frost Hall, will be shut down effective June 30. In a letter sent to faculty, Executive Vice President on Campus Donald J. Brezinski stated that the space will be repurposed to, “focus on projects and programs that directly impact curriculum and showcase student work.”
The gallery opened on February 22, 2002, and has displayed a variety of work over the last twenty years. According to the McIninch Art Gallery’s mission statement, the permanent collection’s goal was “to encourage curiosity and applied critical thinking about art and its role in society through curated learning paths and original works of art.”
Brezinski emphasizes that the decision is not to get rid of the space entirely, but to optimize its student outreach. “When we take a look at the students, what would be the best use of that gallery or studio in support of the curriculum and in support of the students?” said Brezinski. “This is not to come across as a philistine that I don’t like art; I love art, but is a campus like SNHU a place where you would spend a lot of dollars on external art exhibits? There’s opportunity with [the] communication [department], graphic design, and it strikes as a more focused use of resources.”
The gallery’s new purpose is undetermined, but will include hosting events and studio experiences in the arts and humanities. Decision-making is underway, but it is still early in the process.
Brezinski wants the space to reflect SNHU and says the academic community should decide how it will be used going forward.
“I want to lean on Dean Kenneth Nivison [Interim Dean of The School of Arts, Sciences, and Education] and his Communication and Humanities faculty to reimagine this,” said Brezinski. “When you get into the specifics of how this would fit into the curriculum, I will leave it to the faculty experts on that.”
However, Brezinski highlights SNHU student work and insists the space should be a ground for showcasing it.
“There’s an awful amount of talent in our student community,” said Brezinski. “I dare say, our students would benefit if a light were shined on their work. I have met so many students in my time here where the real experience and benefit of SNHU was an environment where unknown talents that they had inside them were pulled out. This is a medium for that and it will benefit individual students to come here.”
With the repurposing of the space, staffing changes were forced upon the university. “There were three members [who worked in the McIninch Art Gallery] and, sadly, their positions were eliminated,” said Brezinski.
The decision was not made on a whim, but rather in foresight of SNHU’s greater plans.
“It’s part of a larger process that has been taking place,” said Brezinski. “…It’s part of the bigger picture; it’s not an isolated move, it’s an element of the greater whole. It’s not so much a closure of an art gallery, but a refocusing and a repurposing of that space. The game plan of that for this summer with deans, humanities chairs, and communication faculty [is] to really think about what we [have] got here and how we are going to best leverage, recraft, and recreate it so that there’s a space for student work.”
The reaction on campus wasn’t significant, though Brezinski has gotten some feedback.
“It may, frankly, be a function of the end of the year and people have their heads down; students were in exams, faculty were administering exams. Some folks expressed their disappointment, others wanted a deeper explanation, which I was happy to give, and many that I chatted with were sorry to see this happen, but understood,” said Brezinski. “There have been some faculty that have recently started the conversations about how they see it being repurposed going forward.”