Wheaton wins $13,215 grant for inclusive art initiatives

Elizabeth Hoy, Tesfay Saleh-Batts ’24 and Armani Santana ’25
Elizabeth Hoy, left, Beard and Weil Galleries director, and students Tesfay Saleh-Batts ’24 and Armani Santana ’25 work with Felix Gonzalez-Torres’s interactive installation, which is made up of individually wrapped candy that viewers are invited to take. (Photo by Keith Nordstrom)

Galleries director Elizabeth Hoy planning LGBTQ+ celebration, accessibility review, support for students

Elizabeth Hoy was in college when she learned about the late Cuban-American artist Felix Gonzalez-Torres, who is known for creating installations from everyday objects. “His work completely changed my idea of what constitutes art,” she says.

Now, as director of Wheaton’s Beard and Weil Galleries, Hoy is thrilled that not only does she get to display Gonzalez-Torres’s work but the college also will benefit from transformative programming in the galleries because of a recently awarded $13,215 grant associated with exhibiting his work.

Gonzalez-Torres’s “Untitled,” (L.A.) is currently part of the exhibition “Fragile Vessels: Contemporary Ceramics and the Body,” which runs through April 5. The installation, which consists of a strip of green cellophane-wrapped candies placed on the floor, is being loaned to the galleries through Art Bridges.

The nonprofit works to expand public access to American art in all regions of the United States. In borrowing “Untitled,” (L.A.), Hoy was eligible to apply for a Learning and Engagement Project grant from Art Bridges in November 2023. The funding will support several inclusive initiatives in the galleries.

The first of these will be an LGBTQ+ celebration, scheduled for April 5. Planned by a working group of students, faculty and staff in collaboration with Wheaton’s LGBTQ+ Network, the event will bring together the college’s LGBTQ+ community and their friends, families and allies for an evening of art, dance and music.

“We are also creating a display  of Wheaton LGBTQ+ artwork, documents, objects, flyers and ephemera from the college archives and Permanent Collection. This will be up in the Haas Concourse from April 5 through Reunion and Commencement,” Hoy says. “As part of the event, Wheaton community members will be able to add to the display, sharing their perspectives and stories.”

The funding also will support Hoy and her staff in taking a closer look at the accessibility of the galleries. She plans to create a working group of campus stakeholders to examine ways to improve access for all visitors. She also hopes to bring in a consultant and plans to work with design majors to develop solutions.

“I want to consider the needs of disability communities, beginning with the journey to the gallery space [physical or digital] and ending, hopefully, with a desire to return,” says Hoy.

Lastly, the grant will lower financial barriers for students in Hoy’s spring semester visual art and design senior seminar to create artwork in response to Gonzalez-Torres’s piece. During the seminar, students will learn about the artist and his work and spend time with “Untitled,” (L.A.), in the galleries. Students then will be able to apply for funds to help them create their own works, which will be displayed on campus from April 18 to May 18.

The director is grateful to Art Bridges for giving her the opportunity to expand programming and open the galleries to new and diverse audiences. “We want to create a space on campus that allows for open discussion, shared ideas and positive movement toward a more equitable future,” she says.

She plans to continue her relationship with the organization. “This isn’t a one-time collaboration.”

—Mary Howard ’85