For more than a decade, Chapman University’s Phyllis and Ross Escalette Permanent Art Collection has served as an important research institute and learning laboratory for students, while curating an ever-growing collection of public art.
Since it was first established in 2010, the “Museum Without Walls” has grown to include 830 works, including contemporary and modern paintings, prints and sculpture, which are displayed throughout Chapman’s Orange and Rinker campuses, in hallways, study spaces and other public areas where they can be freely viewed.
This year, the Escalette Collection celebrates its “10+2” anniversary, a somewhat tongue-in-cheek acknowledgement of the fact that official 10-year celebrations were postponed by the pandemic in 2020.
“Along with everyone else, our plans for 2020 were upended, but now in 2022 we’re determined to celebrate the generosity of Phyllis and Ross Escalette and their family, as well as every artist whose work is part of the collection,” says Fiona Lindsay Shen, director of the collection.
Over the past five years, the staff has focused on increasing the equity and inclusion of the collection, acquiring nearly 100 artworks by women artists and just over 100 artworks by artists from underrepresented racial and ethnic groups.
“We’ve seen first-hand the positive impact that art can have on a space and the people who work, study, and learn within it,” says Jessica Bocinski, Registrar of the collection. “In acquiring and displaying artwork by diverse artists, we contribute to the sense of inclusivity on campus in a very tangible way.”
Art for the Academy – Curating the Student Experience
Housed nominally in Wilkinson College of Arts, Humanities, and Social Sciences, the collection exists as “a museum without walls,” with artworks exhibited throughout campus. In addition, thanks to the addition of “EMuseum” in 2019, the entire collection can now be viewed online.
“As an academic collection, we’re committed to sharing research through eMuseum, as well as providing opportunities for students to contribute to a growing body of research,” says Shen, Ph.D. “So, eMuseum isn’t simply a static catalog of the collection, but a dynamic teaching tool and resource for everybody, whether on campus, or anywhere in the world.”
In recent years, students have participated in the curation of campus exhibits with the Escalette Collection. In Shen’s First Year Focus (FFC) class, “Exploring the Escalette Collection of Art: An Experiential Journey,” students collaboratively curated an art exhibition related to Wilkinson’s Engaging the World: Environmental Justice initiative and installed it on the first floor of Roosevelt Hall.
“Working with this exhibit has been something new, but I have learned so much and have enjoyed working hands-on and doing different activities,” says Sarah Sanders ‘25, a graphic design student who participated in the project.
“To see all of our names on the exhibit plaque was so rewarding,” added Cassandra Chen ‘25, a communications major.
Additionally, Shen introduced an initiative in her Museum Studies class in 2018, allocating funds to the acquisition of art chosen by students. This annual project promotes students’ ownership of the art in their everyday spaces.
Helena Walker, a student who participated in the acquisitions project in 2018, appreciates how important it is for students to feel themselves reflected in their environments. “The feeling of pride I have had walking past Tom Keifer’s “Makeup/No Makeup” is incomparable.”
“I now feel so empowered in the whole acquisition process,” says Hannah Miller, who participated in the project in 2019. “I know that future students will look forward… to the possibility of leaving their mark as well.”
NEA Grant Will Fund Electronic Art Installation in Orange
Last year, the Escalette Collection was honored to receive a $35,000 grant from the National Endowment for the Arts. The grant will be used to commission a unique work of interactive public art for Chapman and the Orange community.
“Code becomes Palette” by internationally renowned artist Daniel Canogar will use electronic animations that continuously shift, mutate and ooze bright color to visualize data unearthed by another high-profile Wilkinson College research project – the Survey of American Fears. Using custom software to run existing and real-time data, the artwork will literally unmask America’s deep-held fears.
It will be displayed in the historic Becket Building just a few blocks away from campus and adjacent to the weekly Orange Farmer’s Market, a place where both Chapman and the Orange community can come experience it together.
The new artwork will be unveiled by the summer of 2023. To learn more about the Escalette Collection of Art, including how you can support this important acquisition, visit www.Chapman.edu/escalette.