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Hidden art: Connelly Center gallery underappreciated

By Daniel Kerrigan
On May 2, 2012

  • Larry Fitzgerald (left) and Willie Parker (right) hope to lead their teams to a Super Bowl title in Florida. MCT Campus


How many things do we walk past every day and never notice? There are beautiful things all around us, but sometimes people are just too busy to notice. 

 Often students rush through Connelly Center on their way from class to class, maybe  stopping to get a quick bite with a friend before rushing off to their next commitment but nonetheless walking right past it.  Many people know it's there but never see, never go in and never take the time to soak up everything it has to offer.  

The Villanova Art Gallery, located on the second floor of Connelly Center, is one of the many hidden gems of campus. But, like the basement floor of Tolentine Hall or top floor of Old Falvey Hall, it seems to have an almost mythical stigma. Many students will go their entire Villanova career without ever stepping foot inside.  

Once inside, however, it is clearly evident that it is a hidden treasure of the University.  The soft lighting and the displays of colorful and powerful paintings on the walls make it feel like a serene oasis away from the organized chaos of college life.  

The gallery was started in the early '80s by Rev. Richard Cannuli, O.S.A., who is still the director today. It began as a place to display the collections that were being gathered in Falvey Hall, according to Maryanne Erwin of the gallery office. While gallery functions and shows are funded by the University, the artwork displayed in its exhibits is donated.  The exhibits come from all over the world. For example, in 1998 there was an exhibit on Egyptian-born artist, Magdi Wadie Mushriqui.

The gallery staff strives to find art and exhibits that they think the students will want to see, according to Erwin, but it is a constant struggle to bring students into the gallery as it is such a marginalized part of campus that few people know about. The staff is focused on exposing students to art of all kinds.  Public receptions are held every Friday from 5-7 p.m., complete with free food.    

"Art is important no matter what you do professionally," Erwin says. "It turns on the other side of your brain." 

The exhibits of the gallery are wide-ranging, from painters to sculptors to illustrators, and they all have a story.  Recently, the exhibit on display was "Ray Sternberg-A Retrospective." 

The late Sternberg was a Long Island native who attended the Pratt Institute in the '50s. Made his living doing illustrations for comic books, book covers, industrial design and directing art departments in marketing, according to the gallery press release on the exhibit.  

Sternberg continued painting and sculpting but never put his extensive collection of works on display.  The "Retrospective" is almost entirely made up of never-before-seen pieces.  

"Dad wasn't interested in changing the world with his art," his daughter, Jennifer Huft, said in the press release. "He painted for himself.  It was pure selfish love and joy."      

The exhibit was conceived when Huft, a Villanova alumna herself, invited Fr. Cannuli to their home on Long Island to see her late father's collection.

The pieces in the collection ranged from cubist and realist paintings to illustrations and still-lifes, and even included an extensive set of miniature airplanes carved from balsawood, themed after the seasons and holidays.  

Sternberg's never-before-seen pieces were not the only pieces of interest.  In the fall, there will be the exhibit "Hello Yello! Jean-Nole Vandaele," a French artist whose work shows all over the world. Appearing after "Retrospective" left the gallery on April 11, "Objects and Elements, Sculptures by Carol Cole" debuted. Cole is a sculptor who gathers her materials from junkyards, yard sales and flea markets and sculpts them into vibrant pieces.  

The Villanova Art Gallery is a place of stories; each piece hanging on the wall or set on a podium has one to tell.  

The gallery is open to the public every day, and is full of amazing artwork with a life and a conversation of its own, even though thousands of people walk right past it.  

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