The Gift of Dr. T. J. Simmons
WAKE FOREST ALUMNI NEWS, May 1941
At our college commencement last spring, Dr. Thomas Jackson in Simmons Wake Forest alumnus, authorized the announcement of the gift of his Museum of Art to Wake Forest College. Plans were made at once for a permanent fireproof gallery in the new chapel building. With the removal of the Medical School to Winston-Salem, however, it was found that ample temporary gallery space would be available in the Johnson Medical Building, permitting the earlier installation of the museum at Wake Forest. Accordingly, with the approval of Dr. Simmons, the library and the auditorium of this attractive fireproof building have been converted into art galleries to house the collection until the permanent gallery in the new chapel is constructed. During the spring holidays all of the items listed on pages 13-18, except those starred, were removed to the college and are now being installed in the galleries.
The collection, taken as a whole, tells a most interesting story of an ideal realized – a dream come true. It is the story of an art education – non-academic perhaps – but intensely interesting, an education going from travel souvenirs to masterpieces by such artists as Bierstadt and Inness. Dr. Simmons states it very concisely in his letter (page 11): "One room [of his home] had a length of more than seventy-five feet. This was not finished for quite a while, but here later were hung the pictures my wife and I had long ago collected in our travels. Then it began filling up with newly acquired paintings, until at last it was full, and then earlier paintings were replaced with later and more valuable ones."
And the removal of the collection to Wake Forest brings to realization another part of this dream, "that my art museum, instead of being sold and scattered after my death, should in some way become the nucleus of a large and growing museum the cultural value of which would increase constantly through the years." How completely Dr. Simmons' dream will be realized remains to be seen.
The college is sparing no effort to make even the temporary galleries as attractive as possible, with specially prepared walls and scientifically designed lighting. Those who share with Dr. Simmons the dream of "a large and growing art museum the cultural value of which would increase constantly through the years," and who may entrust their art treasures to the college, will find that they will be gratefully received, adequately protected, and attractively displayed.
The finest way that we can thank Dr. Simmons for his unique gift is to prove worthy custodians of it, and that its exactly what we shall make every possible effort to do.
The story of the beginning of this museum and of its coming to Wake Forest College has been most interestingly told by Dr. Simmons in a letter to the Editor of the ALUMNI NEWS, pages 11 and 12. A most illuminating story about the collection appears in pages 4-7. It was written by Dr. Gertrude Richardson Brigham of the Brenau College fauculty, who has made extensive use of the museum with her own classes in art, and who has kindly consented for her article, originally written for and published in The Student, to be reprinted in this issue of the NEWS.
At 3 p.m., on June 2, immediately following the Alumni luncheon, Dr. Simmons will formally present the museum to the college and officially open it to the public. Governor J. Melville Broughton will make the formal acceptance for the college. The program will be held in Johnson Medical Building, in the auditorium now converted into one of the museum galleries. A copy of the program will be found on the inside front cover.
When the museum is opened in the Johnson Medical Building it will be somewhat more crowded than will be the case when the new chapel is completed. In the new building there will be a room specially designed by the architect for the museum. About fifty by ninety feet it will afford ample space for more adequately displaying the collection and any additions that may be made to it. Because of the width of the room it lends itself to interesting arrangements, not only for the pictures, but for sculpture and other objects as well.
In the present arrangement, following Dr. Simmons' numbering, the original paintings are placed in the library, designated as gallery one. The travel souvenirs are in the auditorium, designated as gallery two. In a few instanced it has been deemed advisable to place some items out of the numbered sequence, but as far as is practical, the sequence is followed.