Worlds Collide in the McIntire School of Commerce Art Gallery
The writer/director Nicholas Meyer once said, “Art and commerce are not irreconcilable; they are inextricably intertwined.” Perhaps nowhere on Grounds does this idea ring truer than in the John P. and Stephanie F. Connaughton Gallery of the McIntire School of Commerce, located on the third floor of Robertson Hall, and stretching from one side of the building to the other. The gallery is named for alumnus John Connaughton (COMM ’87), and his wife, Stephanie, who wanted to make sure that commerce was known for more than just getting down to business.
With her office nearby, now retired McIntire Professor Karin Bonding first got involved with the school’s gallery because the pieces reminded her of art by painter Leo Posillico, who happens to be her niece’s husband. Bonding reached out and offered him a deal. The result is Connecting to the World, a piece that once hung in the gallery and that today is prominently placed in McIntire's fourth-floor lobby. Bonding was soon recruited to serve on the McIntire Art Committee, to which she brings ample affection and connections with the Charlottesville art world she loves.
"Our gallery is a centerpiece, a place where all students and faculty regularly travel," she says. "It's wide, it's light, and there is access to the courtyard from there. It is really an ideal space." The gallery, says fellow committee member and McIntire Assistant Dean for Budget Rob Tharpe, hosts three exhibitions each year featuring the work of artists who have some connection to Charlottesville or the surrounding area. There is also a particular focus on both high-quality and affordable work.
“We tell artists that they can have a signature piece, but that they really need to have smaller pieces too, because we want our faculty, staff, and students to be able to purchase here, and many of them do,” he notes. The gallery takes no percentage of sales, pays for publicity and an artist reception for each new exhibition, and does all of its own hanging. Highlights include Charlottesville artist Kaki Dimock, whose playful, colorful animal images sit propped against the wall on the day we visited, just taken down after a very successful show, as well as Eileen Williams, a 3-D fabric artist from Baltimore who is now doing national shows.
The school also purchases a piece from each artist who displays in the gallery, and those pieces brighten walls of common spaces throughout Rouss & Robertson Halls. Tharpe, obviously an art lover, is clearly a patron as well – his own office walls serve as a sort of memory lane of exhibitions past. “The gallery is catching on with local art lovers as well as with artists,” Tharpe says. “We are booked into 2021 now and are trying to book at least a couple of years ahead.”