By Laura Porter
One of the centers of cultural life on campus, the venerable Cantor Art Gallery is poised for the next stage in its evolution.
The Iris and B. Gerald Cantor Art Gallery at Holy Cross represents the very best of artistic endeavor, bringing inspiration to the College community through innovative exhibits as well as through an impressive permanent collection.
For almost 25 years, the Cantor Gallery has produced five-to-six shows every year, including at least one major loan show in collaboration with such renowned institutions in the art world as the Metropolitan Museum of Art or the Smithsonian. In addition, Holy Cross maintains its own permanent collection of 450 pieces, a teaching collection that continues to grow every year.
Just a glance at the recent exhibit schedule reveals the eclectic range of the gallery's offerings. Last February, "Catholic Collecting: Catholic Reflection, 1538-1850," gathered illustrated manuscripts, vestments, paintings and other religious artifacts from England and the United States to celebrate the survival of banned sacred objects during the Catholic recusant movement.
In the fall of 2006, Adrienne Farb's abstract paintings filled the gallery, vibrant against a simple backdrop of white walls and spot lighting that drew the viewer into the world the artist sees in striking swaths of light and color.
"Layers: Collecting Cuban-American Art," a recent exhibit, brought together the contemporary collections of an art historian and a philosopher — as well as photography and video from the Lehigh Art Galleries — to celebrate Cuban-American identity.
And this spring, the third in a series of shows on ancient Indonesian textiles — the fruit of a long-term collaboration between collectors Anne and John Summerfield and Susan M. Rodgers, of the College's sociology and anthropology department — will highlight "Gold Cloths of Sumatra: Indonesia's Songkets from Ceremony to Commodity."
In combination with annual exhibits that celebrate the work of Holy Cross students as well as alumni, the list underscores the excellence of the gallery — unique both in terms of its ambitions and its accomplishments.
The impact on the College's academic climate is unquestionable. As the gallery's mission statement attests, its exhibitions allow Holy Cross to educate "members of the College community, the Worcester community and the larger community of scholars and artists about the fundamental intellectual, cultural, spiritual and aesthetic issues encountered through art." In the process, the gallery "serves as a catalyst for the search for meaning and value in life and history."
A key element in its success, notes director Roger Hankins, has been the generosity of founders Iris and B. Gerald Cantor.
As in so many cases, the relationship between philanthropist and institution began with a friendship. In the late 1970s, Rev. John E. Brooks, S.J., '49, then president of the College, met the New York financier through a Holy Cross alumnus.
"I got to know Bernie Cantor pretty well," Fr. Brooks recalls. "I went to visit him in New York and Los Angeles. We became quite close. Through him, I met Iris, of course, and I would have dinner with them."
Treasures of the Cantor, continued>>>