The Henry M. and Ruth B. Wriston Art Center

"Unabashedly post-modern and controversial, filled with whimsical details and stimulating vistas, partially transparent, charming, surprising, fortresslike, playful and warm, sassy, fanciful, elegant, imaginative, engaging, inviting"--Lawrence's Wriston Art Center is all of the above and more.

Dedicated on May 5, 1989, the 33,000-square-foot building devoted to the study, creation and viewing of art is three times the size of the Worcester Art Center--the structure it replaced--and provides a climate-controlled environment and sufficient security for Lawrence's permanent art collection.

The building is named in honor of Henry Merritt Wriston, president of Lawrence 1925-37, and his wife, Ruth Bigelow Wriston. Distinguished by its glass walls and turrets, fanciful curves and curls, and recessed amphitheatre, the structure has been likened to an enclosed country garden or medieval village. Located at the crossroads of campus, it embodies the Wristons' belief that art should be a central part of the Lawrence experience.

"The building beckons us," former president Richard Warch once said, "not only on behalf of itself, but on behalf of what goes on inside it." The red brick exterior, splashed with blue and gold, contrasts with the light-colored stone of other campus buildings, drawing further attention to the building and the visual arts.

The extensive use of glass along the north and south walls allows the passerby to "window-shop" the arts and see young artists at work.

Devoted to art history and the exhibition of works of art, the upper level includes a 150-seat auditorium; a visual resources library with an extensive collection of digital images; a serpentine galleria for the display of study reproductions; faculty offices; and a seminar room.

The west side of the building contains three exhibition galleries of ascending size — the Leech Gallery, Hoffmaster Gallery, and Kohler Gallery — each leading into the next. Adjacent to these are the Quirk Print Gallery, a print study room; office space for the curator and assistant; and preparation and storage areas for the Lawrence Permanent Collection.

A curving staircase descends from the upper floor to the lower lobby which opens into the center's studios and outdoor amphitheatre. The center's outdoor amphitheatre is often used by studio art students to work on their art, but also by Lawrence students to stage concerts, plays, and other events. In the past some local and regional groups have used the space for theatre productions.


—Adapted from Lawrence Today 69 no. 2 (1989), 2-8