The following is a guest post by Corrine Luthy, a graduate intern with Wake Forest University’s Special Collections & Archives.
During the week of the first Secrest Artists Series event of the 2014–2015 season, Special Collections & Archives is pleased to announced the online exhibit 30 Years of Performing Arts: The Secrest Artists Series at Wake Forest Univeristy, 1983–2013.
This exhibit aims to capture the spirit of the Secrest Artists Series mission from 1983 to 2013, showcasing not only the talent that has graced the campus, but also the dedication of many different university departments that collaborate to make Secrest performances multifaceted affairs. The Secrest Artists Series has been a mainstay in the cultural education of Wake Forest University students for decades. Its mission has been to bring premier established and up-and-coming performing artists to the university and to expand their involvement beyond the performance events. Artists guide master classes, lectures, and participate in the larger Wake Forest and Winston-Salem communities.
Included in the exhibit are items of visual interest such as event programs, articles from student newspaper the Old Gold & Black, invitations to artist receptions, mailed season schedules, and pocket schedules that illustrate the graphic themes for each season. These represent just a small selection of items from the Secrest Artists Series collection—the working files of Lillian Shelton, whose career with the Secrest Artists Series spanned nearly the entire 30 years. Shelton retired as the director of the series in 2013, and the files are now housed in ZSR’s Special Collections & Archives.
On a personal note, as the curator of the online exhibit my goal was to tell the Secrest “story” as succinctly as possible. When I began the process of selecting items to include in the digital exhibit, I was so concerned with telling the whole story that I had trouble narrowing down what items to include; I listed just about every item I feasibly could in each of the first few folders. But as I continued to work my way folder by folder through the collection, I realized that certain items summarized the mission and vision of the Secrest Artists Series quite nicely on their own.
Although it was still difficult at times not to include everything, I had the advantage of seeing, for example, how the programs for each performance were reflections of the artists and the series itself. They provide photographs, biographical information, and the performance’s context within the Secrest Series. In many cases, as with the Philadelphia Dance Company, programs have an additional element of interest by being signed by the artists.
I also saw how the artists’ reach in the university and Winston-Salem communities often extended beyond just their performances. Other events include masterclasses, lectures, fundraising efforts, and artists lunches and receptions, like one following the 1993 performance of the Moscow Virtuosi.
I was also intrigued by the care taken to ensure the visual elements of each season were incorporated across different printed items. Often, these were a reflection of the WFU Communications and External Relations team’s graphic design, as with this mailing from the 2002–2003 season announcing the upcoming year’s schedule to Secrest supporters.
Each season has its own graphic theme, like this fuchsia spread from the 1989–1990 season mailing.
I encourage you to explore the online exhibit 30 Years of Performing Arts to learn or reminisce about the past 30 years of the Secrest Artists Series, particularly the vast amount of information and graphic arts work that goes into preparing for a performance season. Included in the exhibit are programs, season mailings and schedules, promotional fliers, and other visually interesting items. I hope you enjoy this digital representation of a pillar of the university’s culture!