Aug 25, 2022
'Willard Suitcases' exhibition funded by Humanities New York Vision Grant
The Reginal A. Quick Center for the Arts at St. Bonaventure University is opening four new exhibitions this fall.
The exhibition “The Willard Suitcases,” organized by photographer Jon Crispin, will run Sept. 1 through Nov. 20 at the Quick Center for the Arts.
The exhibition came about after the closing of the Willard Psychiatric Hospital in the Finger Lakes region of New York state in 1995. At that time, employees tasked with cleaning out the building found hundreds of suitcases in an attic of an abandoned building. Many of them appeared untouched since their owners, patients at Willard, brought them to the institution several decades earlier.
The exhibition contains 30 framed photographs and text panels. Karen L. Miller, M.D., a psychiatrist, conducted research at the New York State Archives in connection with this project and has written text panels about 10 of the patients whose suitcases have survived. Her clinical examination of the medical files shed some light on the patients’ initial diagnoses and treatment and provide likely 21st century diagnoses and treatment.
In conjunction with the exhibition, the Quick Center will host a panel discussion about the advancement of mental health services from institutions (like Willard) to more person-centered, community-based services.
The program, “Unpacking the Willard Suitcases: From Institution to Community,” will be held at 4 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 13, in the Quick Center’s Rigas Family Theater. It is free and open to the public. A reception will follow.
Crispin will be joined on the panel by Laurence Guttmacher, M.D., professor emeritus of the Department of Psychiatry at the University of Rochester Medical Center; Mary O’Leary, director of Cattaraugus County Community Services, which delivers mental health, alcohol and substance abuse, and developmental disability services; and Ashley Luedke, Ph.D., LMHC, associate professor and chair of the SBU Counseling Education Program. In addition to the photographs in “The Willard Suitcases,” Crispin documented 19th century New York state facilities once referred to as “insane asylums.”
“Mental health is a topic that is on the minds of many in our community as we strive to get back to normal in our lingering pandemic world,” said Evelyn Penman, assistant director and senior curator at the arts center. “Although much has been publicized about the increased demand for mental health services during the pandemic, we find that further understanding is needed to continue to break down society’s barriers that existed long before the COVID pandemic.”
By presenting the photography exhibition, “we will have a starting point to generate further dialogue and cause reflection and critical thinking as well as to promote understanding and acceptance of those with a mental health diagnosis,” she said.
The exhibition and panel discussion are made possible by a $4,360 Humanities New York Vision Grant. These grants are federally funded through the National Endowment for the Humanities and provide funding to implement humanities projects that encourage public audiences to reflect on their values, explore new ideas, and engage with others in their community.
A second exhibition, “Imagery and Icons: The Herrlein Series of Franciscan Saints and Icons by Br. Robert Lentz, OFM,” features paintings of the 13 Franciscan saints by Johann Andreas Herrlein (German, 1723-1796). It is on loan from the Franciscan friars of the Holy Name Province. The exhibition runs Sept. 1 through Nov. 20.
These 250-year-old paintings are contrasted by the icons of Br. Robert Lentz, O.F.M. Br. Robert is creating modern day icons while stationed at St. Bonaventure. Besides painting many hours each day, he teaches apprentices, writes, and conducts workshops on art and spirituality throughout the United States. Br. Robert is active in promoting dialog between Muslims and Christians and also is committed to the indigenization of Byzantine iconography in the various cultures embraced by the Church.
Lentz’s icons reflect his experiences among the poor in this country and in the Third World, as well as his Franciscan and Russian roots. They are filled with bright colors and often depict contemporary subjects. While always striving to remain true to the essence of Byzantine iconography, he adapts traditional conventions in order to minister better to the emerging church. His icons remain transcendent expressions of the ancient Christian tradition, and they invite us into communion with God and the saints.
Two gallery talks will accompany this exhibition. The first will be held at 4 p.m. Monday, Sept. 19. Hartwig Kuhl, a descendant of the painter Herrlein, will discuss his research and recent book on the painter’s life. On Tuesday, Oct. 4, at 1 p.m., as part of the university’s celebration of Francis Week, Br. Robert will speak about his work of painting icons. Both talks, which will be held in the Kenney Gallery of the Quick Center, are free and open to the public.
The third new and temporary exhibition is titled “Women Artists: Part One The Poetics of Reverie.” This exhibition is guest curated by St. Bonaventure alumnus Gary Keem, ’69. This exhibition, which hangs in the Front Gallery of the Quick Center, features nonrepresentational art by women artists over the last 30 years. Nationally recognized artists such as Pat Steir and Kathy Muhlemann and regional artists like Jane Foley Ferraro are featured. Part Two of this exhibition will be hung in the spring of 2023. “Women Artists” run from Sept. 1 through Dec. 15.
The Mezzanine Gallery contains the fourth exhibition at the Quick Center, a selection of photographs from the Finger Lakes region of New York by Chris Walters of Corning. An excerpt from Walters' artist statement encourages the viewer to “embrace the beauty and sanctity in both the photograph itself and the act of viewing it.”
Working and exhibiting regionally since 2013, Walters' landscapes of the Finger Lakes, their waterfalls, lakeside sunsets and small communities have won awards and been published in F-Stop magazine and Life in the Finger Lakes Magazine. An artist’s talk is planned for noon on Thursday, Sept. 29, in the Quick Center. All are welcome to attend. The photos are on display Sept. 1 through Nov. 13.
For more information about the Quick Center’s exhibitions and programs, visit www.sbu.edu/QuickCenter.
About the University: The nation’s first Franciscan university, St. Bonaventure University is a community committed to transforming the lives of our students inside and outside the classroom, inspiring in them a lifelong commitment to service and citizenship. St. Bonaventure was named the #5 regional university value in the North in U.S. News and World Report’s 2022 college rankings edition.