Decades of Dynamic Art: Processing the Sordoni Art Gallery Exhibition Files, 1973-present

Wilkes University Archives has a guest blog post written by Emily Cherkauskas, a Junior double major in Communication Studies and English with minors in Creative Writing and Women’s and Gender Studies. Emily is a staff member of The Beacon as an editor for the Life, Arts & Entertainment section and will work as Editor-in-Chief for the Fall 2021 semester. She plans to go into a career that allows her to utilize and enhance her writing and research skills.  For Summer 2021, Emily processed the Sordoni Art Gallery Exhibition Files and created a finding aid that can be found here.

For Summer 2021, Sophia Krupsha, Sordoni Art Gallery Grant intern digitized all of the Exhibition Programs and they can be located on Omeka here. Born in Kingston, PA in 1998, Sophia Krupsha currently lives and maintains a studio at Arts Letters and Numbers in Averill Park, NY. She completed her BFA in Drawing & Painting and a minor in Art History from the Pennsylvania State University in 2021. Though it is mainly site-specific to her hometown, her paintings have been represented nationally in gallery exhibitions on both sides of the United States from Portland, OR to New York, NY, and internationally in Belfast, Ireland.

Below are Emily’s reflections on the collection.

This summer, I processed the Sordoni Art Gallery Exhibition files. The Sordoni Art Gallery is Wilkes University’s fine arts exhibit, opening its doors in 1973, and featuring both local and nationally-recognized artists and their unique collections since then. The Sordoni Art Gallery Exhibition files are dated back from 1973 to present day, with continuous updates as exhibits are held.

The Sordoni Art Gallery exhibition files include marketing materials ranging from newsletters and articles, postcards, flyers, and magazines; exhibition materials including bound catalogues for artists and collections; invitations and letters; calendars and schedules; digital keepsakes including VHS tapes, cassette tapes, floppy disks, and CDs. However, the majority of materials within the Sordoni Art Gallery Exhibition Files contain restricted information, making the collection withheld from public access. These restricted materials include financial records, shipping and loaning documents, and fundraising efforts.

The Sordoni Art Gallery Exhibition files are useful for researching exhibition planning and organization, public relations, fundraising, administrative development, correspondence, events affiliated with the art gallery, the evolution of and reception to the Sordoni Art Gallery’s exhibits, graphic design for marketing materials, and the various genres and styles of art presented. The Sordoni Art Gallery’s exhibitions helped garner even more interest to Wilkes, gathering interest from students, faculty and the broader community alike.

The Sordoni Art Gallery has hosted a variety of collections and artists, first beginning in November 1973 with George Catlin’s collection titled “Painter of the Indians of the Americas.” Since that time, the gallery’s portfolio of exhibits include national and local artists and collections, exhibitions from Wilkes alumni, faculty, and art majors, regional high school students, the Maslow family art collection, and the Sordoni Art Gallery’s permanent collection. 

Although all exhibitions were planned and organized by the Sordoni Art Gallery, the exhibition files are quite expansive. When it comes to a collection from a late artist or a theme perceived and represented by multiple artists, there is a large increase of files available for examination. For example, “Virgin Landscapes, Native Cultures: The Artist Discovers America,” which was held from October 11 to November 29, 1992, featured a collection of a large variety of artists, leading to increased correspondence with and loaning from over ten outside institutions. Meanwhile, other exhibitions, typically more internal events like student exhibitions, have a smaller amount of materials donated to the files.

As the region and American culture both evolve, the Sordoni Art Gallery has continued to adapt in hosting popular and interesting exhibitions by holding corresponding events to new exhibitions, outside of just having an opening ceremony. These other events include “Art in Context” lectures featuring the artist discussing their work and history, “Art in Your Hands” events where gallery staff hold a crafting activity, panel discussions and faculty professor lectures.

The Sordoni Art Gallery also occasionally holds a project relating to a holiday or historically important event, such as the“Year of the Vote” project in 2020 that celebrated and raised awareness for the 19th amendment.

Further efforts have been made in bringing deeper attention and analysis to the works featured by the Sordoni Art Gallery. A certain project includes the launch of “Gallery Guide: Sordoni Artcast,” a podcast launched in February 2021, hosted by Heather Sincavage, director of the Sordoni Art Gallery and associate professor, and Karley Stasko, outreach coordinator, who discuss themes surrounding current exhibitions, occasionally bringing guests on for discussion.

The Sordoni Art Gallery Exhibition Files holds an impressive collection regarding the amount of effort it takes to organize and plan an exhibition. By examining and researching these files, one can notice the unique adaptation and evolution of art through time, from within the small area of Wilkes-Barre, to the international scale.

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