November 09, 2010 | Myrna Anderson

Calvin launches a giving circle for art lovers
Director of exhibitions Joel Zwart and gift officer Larry Gerbens are inviting the entire Calvin community to support the arts.

Their first collaboration involved a major donation of artwork to Calvin’s permanent collection. Now Larry Gerbens and Joel Zwart are launching an arts partnership that welcomes the entire Calvin community.

Two weeks ago—just after dedicating the college’s new Center Art Gallery—Gerbens, a regional gift officer in Calvin’s department of development, and Zwart, the college’s director of exhibitions, launched Calvin Art Partners: a giving society for art lovers.

“There are so many people in the Calvin constituency who are interested in art. They’re involved in their churches art committees, they collect art, they’re docents at museums,” said Gerbens, himself a collector and a former owner of Grand Gallery.

Giving at many levels

Calvin Art Partners allows students, faculty, staff and alumni to financially support Calvin’s art collection and exhibition program. Partners may join the society at any one of five giving levels, paying anywhere from $50 to $1000. “We want to give people the feeling, ‘I’ve got a stake here,” said Gerbens.

The society will help Calvin to grow its permanent collection (now numbering more than 1,500 pieces), conserve that collection and fund exhibitions on the scale of the recent Bruegel show.

The founding art partners hope that the society will also enhance the educational endeavor at Calvin—that faculty will use the gallery and the permanent collection in their teaching and students will find inspiration for their papers and projects in the college’s art resources. “We’re hoping that that will extend beyond our art and art history majors to other disciplines,” Zwart said.

Calvin Art Partners was inspired by “friends-of” societies in museums, said Zwart: “Museums are a support network supported by volunteers and donors, and it’s a model that’s easily adaptable to a college museum.” Members will be eligible for special gallery event and recieve an annual newsletter.

Art partnering

It was two friends of the original Center Art Gallery whose gifts made the new Center Art Gallery possible. One of them was Gerbens, who donated his Prodigal Son-themed collection of artwork to Calvin in 2008. A year earlier, 1955 alumnus Kees Van Nuis had donated 16 paintings to the permanent collection, among them several Hague School works (and a painting named “Barn Interior” whose restoration revealed a hidden “flayed pig.”)

“It was really something that made a case for a new gallery,” Zwart said of those donations and the shows attached to them. He hopes the gallery will attract many such new friends of art.

“It’s giving them a place to come home to,” he said. “We have a home now.”

“It’s a great home,” said Gerbens.

“And now we have to fill it,” Zwart said.

Larry gerbens and Joel Zwart

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