WILKES-BARRE — Works of renowned pop artist Andy Warhol will be the featured exhibit when the Sordoni Art Gallery at Wilkes University re-opens this fall.
The exhibit will open Oct. 6 at the gallery’s new location in the rear of the university’s recently completed Clayton and Theresa Karambelas Media and Communications Center in the South Main Street building that formerly housed Bartikowsky Jewelers.
The news was among some of the new and continuing initiatives discussed during a dinner meeting that university President Patrick Leahy hosted for local media organizations Thursday.
Leahy and Mike Wood, special assistant to the president, were talking about some of the university’s property acquisitions downtown, and Wood noted that he gave a tour of the new building to a former Bartikowsky employee, whom he said was “completely blown away.”
Wood alluded to “a pretty significant come-out-of-the-box art show” for the gallery opening, and Leahy gave him the go-ahead to reveal the details.
“I think it’s a good one because everybody knows Andy Warhol,” Wood said. “I think it crosses from a younger generation to an older generation. I think it will be fun.”
Leahy decided about three years ago that, “with all the investments we were making in the business school and nursing and engineering, that we needed to make a big investment in the arts, too. … You cannot be a true university without an enduring commitment to the arts.”
“We don’t run an art gallery at Wilkes just to serve the community, though I’m delighted that we can serve art aficionados in the community,” Leahy said. “We need to make sure that we find ways to introduce the arts to our students, half of whom … are the first in their families to pursue a four-year degree.”
To do that, Leahy said, he found it necessary to move the gallery to a piece of “prime real estate, make it a lot bigger (and) make investments to ensure that the space could accommodate bigger shows.”
Leahy said he spoke with Andrew Sordoni, whose family helped found the gallery, and came up with a strategy.
A decision, which sparked some criticism at the time, was made to sell off some of the university’s art collection to fund an endowment —potentially nearing $3 million — that would be used to draw prominent art shows.
The new 17,726-square-foot media center will bring the communication studies department co-curricular activities under one roof: WCLH Radio; television studios; The Beacon student newspaper; the student public relations agency Zebra Communications; and the speech and debate team. The grand opening for that part of the building will be Aug. 31.
Wilkes bought the Bartikowsky building in March 2015 for $1.2 million.