Opened in 2012, the Ruth and Elmer Wellin Museum of Art combines advances in interdisciplinary approaches with object-based learning. Named in memory of Ruth and Elmer Wellin, parents of Keith Wellin, Hamilton class of 1950, who, along with his devoted wife Wendy, provided leadership funding for the building. The museum features a large visible archive and open storage spaces allowing visible access to a collection of cross-cultural art and artifacts that span millennia.
As a teaching museum, the Wellin serves students, faculty, and the broader community, encouraging observation, exploration, and engagement. It complements the liberal arts experience and curriculum by presenting exhibitions with interdisciplinary access points to inspire dialogue about arts and culture that is global in its scope. The Wellin is also proud to serve as a resource for the broader community, offering artist lectures, customized tours, educator workshops, in-school teaching, and creative events for children and K-12 students.
The 30,537-square-foot museum was designed by Machado and Silvetti Associates. The museum’s Archive Hall features 27-foot-high glass cases that serve as visible storage for a selection of the Wellin’s permanent collection. The Dietrich Exhibition Gallery, a 6,200-square-foot, versatile gallery space hosts two major exhibitions each academic year, and provides space for frequently rotating exhibitions. In addition to the Dietrich Exhibition Gallery and Archive Hall, the museum offers visitors access to two and three dimensional works from the permanent collection in the Object Study Gallery, two seminar rooms which can be reserved for classes and scholarly visits to interact directly with objects pulled from the collection, and the Material Perseveration Laboratory, a glass enclosed visible preparatory space where works are staged for exhibitions, framing and conservation. A second-floor lounge area for student gatherings overlooks the Selch Museum Terrace, an exterior space utilized for public programs during the fall and summer months.
The permanent collection of the Ruth and Elmer Wellin Museum of Art includes over 6,000 works of art and artifacts, representing a broad range of cultures, historical periods, and artistic practices and movements including Greek and Roman antiquities; Native American vessels and objects of material culture; drawings and watercolors from the Beinecke Collection of the Lesser Antilles; American, European (particularly British modernist), and Asian paintings, prints, photographs, drawings, and sculpture. The collection continues to grow with an emphasis on contemporary art and historical works that deepen and strengthen its existing holdings and support the academic mission of the college. Artworks that echo the interdisciplinary qualities of a liberal arts education are particularly useful for curricular engagement.
The Wellin presents two or more major exhibitions per year, including group shows and surveys dedicated to a single artist. The Wellin presents work by artists at various stages in their careers with an emphasis on mid-career artists, supporting the growth and expansion of their practice to develop work in new directions. The museum works closely with artists for years leading up to their exhibitions, and supports original projects that push each artist’s practice. For example, the Wellin’s upcoming Julia Jacquette survey includes two new, site-specific murals commissioned by the Wellin that will be painted by the artist with the assistance of Hamilton students.
In tandem with the museum’s exhibitions, the Wellin produces high-quality publications and artist monographs that provide additional resources to students, scholars, and general audiences. Many of the museum's catalogues are co-published by DelMonico Books/Prestel, a division of Random House. Co-published books include a fully-illustrated publication to accompany Pure Pulp: Contemporary Artists Working in Paper at Dieu Donné; Playground of My Mind, a graphic memoir by Julia Jacquette; and monographs for Yun-Fei Ji: The Intimate Universe, Julia Jacquette: Unrequited and Acts of Play, and Jeffrey Gibson: This Is the Day.