The Wellin Museum of Art did not exist when Willie E. Williams ’73 first stepped onto the Hamilton campus in 1969. Williams, now a renowned photographer and the Audrey A. and John L. Dusseau Professor in the Humanities at Haverford, recounted his early experiences with art at Hamilton during a talk in the Wellin Museum’s gallery.
Though the College did not have a museum during his time as a student, Williams claimed that he “got interested in art by seeing it around campus.” To him, access to art allowed a better understanding and pursuit of his interests, and it’s this accessibility that makes the Wellin Museum important to students.
Katherine Alcauskas, the museum’s collections and exhibitions specialist and curator of the Wellin's current show Innovative Approaches, Honored Traditions, agreed. According to Alcauskas, the exhibition is divided into six themes with each based on one or more of Hamilton’s educational goals. Art and history history courses and even an environmental science class have used the show in their curriculum, demonstrating art’s broad relevance.
The Ruth and Elmer Wellin Museum of Art marked its fifth anniversary this fall with “Innovative Approaches, Honored Traditions,” a showcase of pieces from the College’s permanent collection that is both a tribute to the past and a look to the future.
Williams and Alcauskas also noted that the gallery’s collection showcased segments of Hamilton College’s history. Williams noted one of his works hanging next to a photograph by Silvia Saunders, who grew up and hosted events on College Hill. Their positioning reinforced both an aesthetic and historical juxtaposition between the two pieces.
The talk concluded with Williams discussing his gelatin silver print, Site of Utica Rescue. As a part of his ongoing “underground railroad” project, Site of Utica Rescue captures a key location on the Oneida County Freedom trail and brings it to Hamilton College. Williams expressed that the power in his photography comes in its ability to “capture a moment,” and that, when he works on his personal collection, he looks to “put together a story.”
Likewise, Williams and Alcauskas observed that Wellin Museum also uses this notion of stories in artwork, ultimately helping both educate the community and create a calm, visually pleasing atmosphere for all to enjoy.