Evan Harris

As curator, Dr. Jennifer Finkel decides which pieces go on display and which are stored in racks.


April 12, 2023

In Latin, the word “curator” means “one who has care of a thing.” A manager. A guardian. A trustee. Finkel sees herself as all of these things — a steward of objects. So it’s a challenge to her that she can’t hang two of the collection’s most impressive pieces — pieces that students acquired — because she doesn’t have the proper space to care for them. 

“Philosophically, I feel like we, as an institution, are not valuing this collection,” Finkel said. “We value the buying trip. We value the $100,000 that we give to students every four years, now every three years. We are not valuing the art when it comes here. Hence, we are not valuing the artists.”

When I asked Finkel what the solution would be, I could tell she’d dreamed of it before. She imagines a safe, dedicated, temperature-controlled, humidity-controlled environment. Where there is open storage, so the Colescott and Katz are safe and able to be viewed. Open racks. Flat files. A huge conference table where students can view art and discuss it. Students could curate shows. There could be performances. Other disciplines could share the space, as well. Chemistry students could learn the science of conservation. 

Philosophically, I feel like we, as an institution, are not valuing this collection.

— Dr. Jennifer Finkel, University Art Curator

Finkel’s dream space doesn’t mean that the art in Reynolda or Benson would have to go away. Some of the Reece Collection and other student art could still be there. 

“It has been historically in Wake Forest DNA, in our fabric, to have art in the public,” Finkel said. “And that’s wonderful. There can still be. It’s not an either or, it’s a both and.” 

Mills suggested a vision similar to Finkel’s. He proposed that the university divide its collections into two categories: a museum collection for works that support the university’s academic mission and a campus collection for works that would enhance campus but do not meet museum quality. 

Since Murphy’s and Mill’s report, the university has not announced any plans for a dedicated space for the Reece Collection, although Wake Forest has certainly been thinking about its academic space needs. As a part of the strategic framework, Wake Forest President Susan Wente created a University Space Planning Group to ensure the management of the university’s physical assets. In her February 2023 blog post, Wente said that academic space renewal was one of her “highest priorities as President.”

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