August 25, 2022
“Willard Suitcases” exhibition, funded by the 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 Willard Suitcases exhibition, organized by photographer Jon Crispin, runs September 1 through November 20 at the Quick Center for the Arts.
The exhibit was created after the closure of the Willard Psychiatric Hospital in the Finger Lakes area of upstate New York in 1995, when workers tasked with cleaning the building found hundreds of suitcases in the attic of an abandoned building. Many of them seemed untouched since their owners, patients at Willard, had brought them to the asylum several decades earlier.
The exhibition includes 30 framed photographs and text panels. Karen L. Miller, MD, a psychiatrist, conducted research in the New York State Archives in connection with this project and wrote plaques on 10 of the patients whose suitcases survived. Her clinical examination of the medical records sheds some light on the patients’ initial diagnoses and treatments and provides probable 21st century diagnoses and treatments.
In conjunction with the exhibition, the Quick Center is hosting a panel discussion on the evolution of mental health services from institutions (like Willard) to more person-centric, community-based services.
The Unpacking the Willard Suitcases: From Institution to Community program will be held on Thursday, October 13 at 4:00 p.m. at the Quick Center’s Rigas Family Theater. It’s free and open to the public. A reception follows.
Crispin will be on the panel by Laurence Guttmacher, MD, Professor Emeritus in the Department of Psychiatry at the University of Rochester Medical Center; Mary O’Leary, director of Cattaraugus County Community Services, which provides services for mental health, alcohol and substance abuse, and developmental disabilities; 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 that were once referred to as “lunatic asylums.”
“Mental health is an issue of concern to many in our community as we strive to return to normal in our ongoing pandemic world,” said Evelyn Penman, associate director and senior curator of the arts center. “Although much has been published about the increased demand for mental health services during the pandemic, we recognize that further understanding is needed to further break down the barriers in society that existed well before the COVID pandemic.”
By presenting the photo exhibit, “we will have a starting point to encourage further dialogue and encourage reflection and critical thinking, as well as to promote understanding and acceptance by people with a mental health diagnosis,” she said.
The exhibit and panel discussion are made possible by a $4,360 Humanities New York Vision Grant. Funded federally through the National Endowment for the Humanities, these grants 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, “Pictures and Icons: The Herrlein Series of Franciscan Saints and Icons by Br. Robert Lentz, OFM” shows 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 from September 1st to November 20th.
The icons of Br. Robert Lentz, OFM Br. Dr. Robert creates modern day icons while stationed at St. Bonaventure. Aside from painting long hours each day, he teaches apprentices, writes, and runs art and spirituality workshops across the United States. Br. Robert actively promotes dialogue between Muslims and Christians and also promotes the indigenization of Byzantine iconography in the various cultures encompassed by the Church.
Lentz’s icons reflect his experiences among the poor of this country and in the Third World, as well as his Franciscan and Russian roots. They are filled with bright colors and often feature contemporary motifs. While always striving to stay true to the essence of Byzantine iconography, he adapted traditional conventions to better serve the nascent Church. His icons remain a transcendent expression of the ancient Christian tradition and invite us to communion with God and the saints.
Two gallery talks accompany this exhibition. The first will take place on Monday, September 19 at 4 p.m. Hartwig Kuhl, a descendant of the painter Herrlein, will talk about his research and his recently published book on the life of the painter. On Tuesday, October 4th, at 1:00 p.m., as part of the university celebration of Francis Week, Br. Robert will talk about his work as an icon painter. Both talks, held at the Quick Center’s Kenney Gallery, are free and open to the public.
The third new and temporary exhibition is entitled “Female Artists: Part One The Poetics of Reverie”. This exhibit is guest curated by St. Bonaventure alumnus Gary Keem, ’69. This exhibition, which hangs in the Quick Center’s Front Gallery, features non-representational art by women artists over the past 30 years. Nationally recognized artists such as Pat Steir and Kathy Muhlemann and regional artists such as Jane Foley Ferraro are featured. Part two of this exhibition will be hung in spring 2023. “Female Artists” runs from September 1st to December 15th.
The Mezzanine Gallery contains the fourth exhibition in the Quick Center, a selection of photographs from the Finger Lakes area of New York by Chris Walters of Corning. An excerpt from Walters’ artist statement encourages the viewer to “embrace the beauty and sacredness of both the photograph itself and the viewing.”
Walters’ landscapes of the Finger Lakes, their waterfalls, lakeside sunsets and small communities working and exhibiting regionally since 2013 have been recognized and featured in F-Stop Magazine and Life in the Finger Lakes Magazine. An artist talk is planned for Thursday, September 29, at 12 noon in the Quick Center. Everyone is cordially invited. The photos can be seen from September 1st to November 13th.
For more information about the Quick Center exhibits and programs, visit www.sbu.edu/QuickCenter.
About the University: The nation’s first Franciscan university, St. Bonaventure University is a community dedicated to transforming the lives of our students, inside and outside the classroom, inspiring them to a lifelong commitment to service and citizenship. St. Bonaventure was named the #5 regional university value in the North in the 2022 edition of US News and World Report College Rankings.