WILKES-BARRE — Gathered around the iconic, colorful pop-art portraits of Marilyn Monroe, onlookers learned all about the works and life of Andy Warhol while visiting the grand opening of the new Sordoni Art Gallery within the Karambelas Media and Communications Center at Wilkes University on Friday.
The exhibit, titled “15 Minutes: From Image to Icon,” is the first to grace the new $3 million, 7,000 square-foot facility and offers some of Warhol’s most famous works, including Campbell’s soup cans and his $1 series along with Polaroid portraits and black-and-white photographs during the time of John F. Kennedy’s assassination.
A ribbon-cutting ceremony was held prior to the gallery’s opening, with remarks from University President Dr. Patrick Leahy, Andrew J. Sordoni III and others who reiterated the importance of the arts. Sordoni spoke passionately of the arts and the gallery that carries his name, saying “the criticism of art is what allows it to endure and go on.”
“This new gallery — it’s dedication today — but its vision that is embraced by this university, is a resource that will underpin and enhance our very civilization,” he added.
“I just felt very strongly that I also wanted to signal that this university will remain committed to the arts,” Leahy said about deciding to reconstruct the gallery. “So we decided to find a way to reinvent that gallery, move it to a better location, make sure that we have money available to bring in shows and then hire a first-class person like Heather Sincavage. So this is a culmination of that effort.”
While the public was busy taking in the scene surrounding them, Sincavage, Director of the Sordoni Art Gallery and exhibit curator, happily answered questions. She admitted the new location and exhibit was at the top of her “to-do” list ever since becoming a part of the Wilkes family a year-and-a-half ago.
Sincavage believes the new building will draw not only more students but also members of the public due to its central location and accessibility — something the former gallery lacked. Once the plans for the gallery were set in place, Sincavage said discussions began about what artist would open the new space. Initially, she said the group decided to pay homage to the state and use a Pennsylvania artist.
“We threw around a few different names … but we decided we wanted to go with someone who would be widely recognizable and accessible for a lot of different reasons,” she said. “So here we are with Andy Warhol.”
Sincavage said just as Warhol used art as a vehicle to promote change and the way art is viewed, Wilkes is striving to mimic that message by getting community members to appreciate and change the way they view art on a local level.
‘Came together beautifully’
Ryan Ward, curator for the Maslow Collection at Marywood University, assisted in bringing Warhol to Wilkes by loaning the exhibit 11 Warhol pieces. After looking around at not only the crowd, but the space and setup of the exhibit itself, Ward said he was thrilled to see how the collection was displayed and the public’s reaction to the art.
“It came together beautifully,” he said. “The space is gorgeous, it has a great rhythm through the show. It’s museum-quality as far as the show coming together.”
Sitting at a table with her daughter, niece and their friend, Sweet Valley resident Tanya Quare said she decided to attend the opening because she wanted to educate the girls on art.
“We came here for a little bit of culture,” she said with a laugh.
“We just got done talking about how he could just take a picture of him eating with his mouth wide open and it would be famous,” said Tanya’s 11 year-old daughter, Jules.
The exhibit will be available to view at the gallery until Dec. 20.