Sordoni Art Gallery discussion; resolve miscommunications: Faculty, administration: lesson learned, open discussion


Gabby Glinski

On Jan. 28, the Sordoni Art Gallery opened a new photography exhibition; Backstage Pass: Baron Wolman and the Early Years of Rolling Stone. The exhibit displays how the work of Baron Wolman defined one of the most important eras in rock-n-roll history.

Controversies spurred by miscommunication surrounding the Sordoni Art Gallery renovations have been resolved, according to Wilkes University President Patrick Leahy.

Last September, the “three prong” plan for the gallery involved investing funds to hire a new gallery director, moving the art gallery to a more visible location and deaccessing much of the art.

The decisions caused controversy within the campus community as well as external bodies in the art community.

“I think we had a chance to dialogue through it a little more, make sure there was greater understanding of the goals behind the decision,” Leahy said. “I met with a number of faculty members within the College of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences when I heard there was concern…I immediately invited them to a meeting… 12-14 of them showed up… once we dialogued through it I think a lot of people got enthusiastic about it.”

While Leahy admits that some members of the community may have taken a different approach, he feels confident with where plans stand.

“Even if they would have made a different decision I hope they appreciate the intention behind it.”

Dr. Jonathan Ference, Faculty Affairs Council (FAC) chair explained that he too believed that the concerns resulted from miscommunication but have since been resolved.

“All parties that were involved did learn from the situation…the concerns arose from miscommunications,” Ference said.

Fenrece explained that the FAC set aside time on their agenda to discuss the concerns and encouraged the administration to meet with members of the College of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences.

“I do believe it has been resolved and the way it was resolved was appropriate.”

Dr. Philip Simon, associate professor of performing arts and the newly inducted Wilkes chapter of the American Association of University Professors (AAUP) President explained that while he is new to the discussion, he felt the situation is being handled.

“Everyone in the process was well meaning. I don’t think there was anyone who was intentionally trying to hide things from the faculty,” Simon explained. “But hopefully there’s a lessoned learned here that anything that is of this magnitude, the selling of the Sordoni collection for any reason, is more than just the person who gave the collection giving their permission.”

Leahy explained that as the conversation continues surrounding the gallery plans, support continues to build.

“The more I talk about it, the more I explain to people the rationale behind it… the more I talk about the enthusiasm I’ve received from others, the more excitement and enthusiasm I get,” he said.

While the new gallery is not expected to be open until later in the Fall 2016 semester, the current Sordoni Gallery will continue to operate.

Plans to hire a new Art Gallery Director are also on the rise as Leahy hopes the new position will be filled over the summer.

The search committee created to hire the new staff member consists of various individuals from the campus community including  faculty members.

Leahy explained that while it is up to the committee to pick the individual, they would be looking for someone who is  “the most qualified art historian that we can find” that also has capabilities to bring in academics as well as administrative part of the gallery.

The old Sordoni Gallery will also be restored, to what though Leahy is not sure. He explained that while no definitive plans for the space exist yet, it would most likely go to one of the schools already housed within Stark Learning Center.

The space will be “available for the academic side of the house to use as they see fit,” Leahy said.

As for the new Sordoni Art Gallery, as well as the Communication Center to be in the 141 South Main building, Leahy explained that the plans have changed from original blue prints.

“The original footprint of the building had the new space about 25% larger than the old space,” Leahy said. “Once I took a look at it and saw the possibilities… we decided to expand the building and in turn double the size of the space.”

“Because we’re doing this total renovation and now adding on to it… it allows us to bring in high end shows…Security, climate control…all that’s necessary to bring in the types of shows we want to bring in,” Leahy added.

As progress continues on the newest addition to the university campus, Leahy continues to keep his main initiative in mind.

“I want in the end this to be seen as a bold investment in the arts at a time where the arts are under siege.”