Many members of the City College community are not aware that we have an extensive art collection. Yet much of it is on view throughout the campus, particularly in Cohen Library. The Library is the heart of the College, so it’s only fitting that some of our most precious art works are on display there. Other works can be found outdoors around campus. Some art works on view are accompanied by printed captions written by students, offering more information about the works. In time, all of the works on view will have captions, which will also be featured on a web site. We hope to make our collection more visible, more accessible and more engaging to all members of our community.
At present, the collection is most easily visited via Flickr. When we’re able to return to campus, look around you and see how many of the paintings and sculptures you can find inside and outside our buildings. Many are in public spaces, and some are in administrative offices. If you start in the atrium of the Library, you’ll see many of them right away. But like the larger part of an iceberg that’s invisibly submerged, the majority of works from our art collection are not on view. Some are too fragile to display or have been damaged, others simply haven’t found the right location for installation yet. These are in secure storage in non-public spaces within Cohen Library. A large part of the collection consists of what we call works on paper (drawings, photographs, etchings, woodcuts, lithographs, etc.). Works on paper, like this print by Ida Abelman, are very light sensitive, and if displayed for more than a few weeks at a time will fade. So our works on paper collection, much like the Library’s Rare Books Collection, remains in storage, but is available for research, personal viewing, or class visits, under the supervision of the City College Archivist, Professor Sydney Van Nort, and her staff.
The CCNY Art Collection consists primarily of works on paper, paintings, sculptures, photographs and stained glass. The majority of the works are from the 19th and 20th centuries, and most are by European and American artists. We hope in time to expand the collection to include works in more mediums, from more time periods, and representing more diverse artistic traditions. We are proud to have the works of many alumni in the collection. Recent MFA graduate Christine Sloan Stoddard graciously donated a large painting that was exhibited in the Windows on Amsterdam Gallery as part of the CCNY Women Make Art 2018 exhibition. Her thesis exhibition "Poemario: Tierra Madre, El Salvador" was on view during the Spring 2019 semester in the Cohen Library Archives Gallery. She and a group of Art Collection student workers helped to install the painting in Shepard Hall.
Why does the College have an art collection? It helps us to tell our story and convey our mission; it adorns our beautiful campus; it inspires thought, study and enjoyment; and it invites the wider community of Harlem and the city to join us in enjoying artistic encounters. More specifically, the collection is an important resource for our studio art, design and history students, and potentially for students and faculty in many other departments as well. Many colleges have art collections, which serve as a reminder that the life of the mind includes the life of the senses, that aesthetics matter as much as ideas, and that a liberal arts education includes the opportunity to explore the power of art works through firsthand experience.
The Art Collection is managed by a faculty curator, Federal Work Study Art Collection student workers, and the Cohen Library and City College Archives faculty working together. I am the curator and I work closely with Professor Sydney Van Nort and Professor James Wechsler and other Library colleagues on art collection projects. All students are welcome to volunteer to research works in the collection and write captions about them, and all faculty are encouraged to inquire about works in the collection which might be appropriate for their classes to visit.
Image 1: Romare Bearden, School Bell Time, 1994, silkscreen
Image 2: Ida Abelman, Father and Children, 1935-1942, linoleum cut
Image 3: Painting by Christine Stoddard en route to installation in Shepard Hall, photograph by Andrea Cadornigara