A new home for student and faculty art pieces at “The Elms”


When painting, drawing or otherwise creating works of art, few students and faculty at DePauw anticipate their finished projects hanging on the walls of the president’s house.
But increasingly that is where pieces find a place to hang.
Over the summer, President Brian Casey and University Curator of Exhibitions Craig Hadley started reworking the artwork at the president’s house, also known as “The Elms.”
“Dr. Casey approached me at the beginning of the summer and he said that he was really interested in having artwork that was more dynamic and created a much more energetic environment,” Hadley said. “We thought getting current student and faculty artwork might be one way to do it.”
The summer project began with clearing out the ballroom to make room for new art. They reinstalled what was in the ballroom, moved art to new places and started selecting student and faculty work to take its place.
“It should be surprising, and beautiful, and occasionally provocative,” Casey said.  “I am so grateful that the new curator is such an enthusiastic partner in this. It’s simply been great.”
Many of the student pieces are previous winners of the Fritz Smith Memorial Art Award.
“Each year we select one senior art student to receive an art award,” Hadley said. “As part of that award they receive a monetary award, but then we also receive one of their artworks in exchange.”
One Fritz Smith winner featured is Lily Bonwich ’12. The Elms has two of her pieces; the one kept by the University as part of her award and the one bought by Casey at her senior show.
“I think that it’s definitely bragging rights,” Bonwich said. “I’m always really proud to tell people that my university owns and displays my work.”
Student pieces have always hung in The Elms, but the volume of the work is greater than it has been in years.
“Over the years I have bought quite a bit of student art, and Craig [Hadley] was able to incorporate that into the new exhibitions,” Casey said.
Bonwich also loves the idea of expanding the collection.
“I really like the appreciation for the artists from the DePauw community because I think it gives the newer artists something to aspire to,” Bonwich said. “It makes our artists feel appreciated.”
This year the entire studio faculty is represented, a feat not seen in recent history.
“We simply asked our studio art faculty at DePauw if they’d all be interested in contributing two or three pieces,” Hadley said. “They all agreed to help expand the collection at The Elms.”
Casey and Hadley hope to change up the collection in coming years, adding more student and faculty work while switching out pieces. They plan to continue to exhibit work from DePauw artists.
The president’s house, a prominent venue in itself, is an optimal place for the student and faculty art to get exposure.
“We host an incredible number of events at The Elms, from large alumni gatherings, to faculty dinners, to Ubben Lecture receptions, to board meetings,” Casey said. “Because of that, and because of my own love of art, I have always wanted to use the house as a vehicle to highlight the work of our faculty and students, and to show off the University’s art collection.”
The house has been a fixture at DePauw and every president since 1925 has lived there.
“The house isn’t really my house, it is one of the most important front doors to the university,” Casey said. “It should serve as a means to highlight the life of DePauw.”