Liberty University opens new art museum on campus

Liberty University held a grand opening and ribbon cutting Thursday night for a new on-campus art museum.

Todd Smith, director of the Liberty University Art Museum, said it took a lot of prayer to make the museum possible.

“What I feel is first and foremost that it is God who glorifies himself, and he is going to use our students and our faculty to do the same thing when they show their work here and go back to their chosen field and the field of art,” Smith said.

Scott Hayes, dean of the School of Communication and the Arts, came to the university in 2013 and said that since then there have been talks of establishing a Liberty University Art Museum.

“To actually be able to connect all of these pieces at the end is just an incredible blessing,” Hayes said.

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The art museum is located near the School of Communication and the Arts, just down the hall from the main hall of Green Hall.

The opening of the museum and the expansion of the art space were made possible by Barbara Engstrom and her husband, Frederick, who are both supporters of LU.

Barbara Engstrom, who died in December 2021, donated her collection to the university, which included 30 of her own paintings in addition to glass and sculpted figures and photographs she collected during her travels to 99 countries.

Everett Foutz, director of development and head of planned giving at Liberty University, said that in 2013 he began contacting Engstrom about scholarships.

Foutz and Smith went to visit her and she asked them to look at her art and get a quote of how much it would cost to put it on permanent display.

Foutz said the price the university asked him to exhibit his collection was about $1.2 million. This allowed the university to expand the space, open the museum and create scholarships.

Her gallery, “Barbara A. Engstrom Gallery”, will be a permanent collection of the museum.

“She had such a generous heart, she gave to so many people, individuals and organizations,” Foutz said.

At the ribbon cutting on Thursday evening, the museum had two exhibits – a senior exhibit for art students and the Barbara A. Engstrom Gallery in the back half, which will be in the museum permanently.

Sarah Hedrick, senior and studio art major at Liberty University, presented paintings for the inauguration.

“It took many hours for several years. I didn’t start that just this semester,” Hedrick said of finishing those plays.

Hedrick pointed to a painting she did while on a mission trip to Hawaii last summer. She said she was inspired by the landscape, took a photo and returned to where they were staying and took a few hours to paint.

The eldest said it was the first show she had done in quite a while.

“It helps me, you know, get into the professional art world and introduce myself and my work,” Hedrick said.

Senior Natalie Perkins said seeing her artwork on display was “such a rewarding feeling”.

Perkins said she originally majored in social work when she entered college, but switched to studio art after two years because her heart was truly in art.

“I really felt like God was leading me to use him instead of just pushing him away like a lot of people do and it’s been such an empowering experience,” Perkins said.

Perkins said his gallery on Thursday was “kind of a ‘thank you’ to the people in my life who encouraged me to continue” on the path of art.

“I had to deal with a lot of discouragement from outside sources, but most people who [you] see here people from my life like early or high school or even college who just encouraged me to keep going and they mean the world to me,” Perkins said.

Smith said the new space is about three times larger than the gallery he had before. He hopes the art museum and permanent collection will be one of the cultural hubs of the campus and community, allowing students to see works in ways they might not have noticed before.

“For me, it’s something precious. It exposes students to a form of learning and other things that they may not have experienced before and that’s good for their education,” Smith said.

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