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  April 26, 2004

Dedication Ceremony Held
For Benton's Gilman Gallery

Surrounded by grandchildren, nephews, and nieces, Evelyn Simon Gilman cut the ceremonial ribbon and welcomed hundreds of art lovers, family, and friends to the new Evelyn Simon Gilman Gallery at the University's William Benton Museum of Art, during a dedication ceremony April 17.

Image: Evelyn Simon Gilman

Evelyn Simon Gilman '46 speaks during the dedication of the Eveyln Simon Gilman Gallery at the William Benton Museum of Art on April 17.

Photo by Dollie Harvey

"I am so pleased to be able to give back to the University of Connecticut," said Gilman, '46, "and to provide present and future students the opportunity to develop a love, appreciation, and understanding of all kinds of life-enriching art." Gilman majored in psychology and business at UConn. She also met her husband Herbert Gilman, an engineering student, here.

The gallery is intended to be the central gathering place for campus culture seekers.

"With the completion of our new addition, my dream that the museum become a significant presenter of art and culture has been fulfilled," said Salvatore Scalora, director of the Benton Museum. "This is a stunning reflection of the steps the Benton is taking to serve the community."

The ribbon cutting at the new gallery entrance was preceded by a courtyard presentation during which University President Philip E. Austin, School of Fine Arts Dean David G. Woods, Scalora, and alumna Judith Zachs thanked Evelyn Gilman for her gift of $800,000, which made the construction of the gallery possible.

"The arts are for everyone, and I think that is particularly important at a land-grant university where we have, and are expected to have, excellence at all levels," Austin said. "In an enterprise that is known for that philosophical land-grant orientation, it is particularly important that the arts and humanities are very visual and representative.

"This makes a visual statement that the arts and humanities are important," Austin added, "not simply the professional programs for which land-grant schools are known."

Crisp stainless steel arches span the faade's brick columns, and soaring torchieres illuminate both the exterior and interior of the building. The new gallery hosts a new museum store and the CafŽ Muse, both of which are open during museum hours. A staircase leading to the second floor lobby serves as an entrance to the gallery.

The gallery will showcase special exhibits and works from the Benton's permanent collection of more than 5,000 pieces.

Architects Glenn Arbonies and Sandra Vlock of Arbonies King Vlock say that in designing the 7,750 gross feet, two-story addition, they were inspired by the museum's original Collegiate Gothic structure. The building served as the main dining hall for the campus from 1920 through the mid-1940's and was known as 'The Beanery.'

Scalora describes the building as a "flawless architectural merger" of the early 20th century historic building and the early 21st century.

Woods said the new addition will expand opportunities for the entire university community, as well as art students and professors. "It will be a center for the cultural arts on campus," he said.

Woods added that the next phases of construction will be a human rights gallery, dedicated to presenting human rights-oriented visual arts exhibitions and a human rights meditation sculpture garden.

The ribbon cutting was the centerpiece of a sunny afternoon at the Benton that was filled with art exhibits, a catered luncheon, the sounds of jazz, opera singing, and drama and puppetry performances by students from the School of Fine Arts.

There are four new exhibitions at the museum, that will be on view through May 14: 'Collection Tango,' a selection of contemporary art personally chosen by Gilman and Scalora; 'Full Tilt,' an exhibition of works from 2004 MFA degree candidates; 'An 18th-Century Gallery,' art exploring intellectual currents of post-Classical Europe; and 'Molas From The Elisabeth Hans Collection,' a display reflecting native Cuna Indian traditions in Panama.

Hours are Tuesday through Friday, 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., Saturday and Sunday, 1 to 4:30 p.m.