About - Southwestern Illinois College


The William and Florence Schmidt Art Center facilitates visual literacy through exhibitions of art and cultural artifacts while igniting inspiration, imparting knowledge, and fostering connections between the college and the local community.

Overview of Art Center Activities

Throughout the year, the Schmidt Art Center presents an array of exhibits featuring artwork created by established professionals and emerging artists from the metro area and beyond. The center also hosts cultural events, collaborating with professional artists, poets, and musicians. With a collection of over nine hundred works, the Schmidt Art Center holds the most extensive art collection of any two-year college in Illinois, encompassing paintings, photographs, sculptures, and artifacts.

The collection was mostly acquired through private donations and funds from the Illinois Art in Architecture program.

The Schmidt Art Center offers various non-credit courses through the Schmidt Art Center Academy, which invites the community to explore creativity and engage with like-minded individuals. From the captivating lens of digital photography to the intricate threads of sewing to the immersive realms of book clubs and more, it establishes an environment where artistic discovery and connectivity flourish. Check out our class offerings HERE.

Whether you’re looking to develop your artistic abilities, engage with a creative community, or appreciate the beauty of art, the Schmidt Art Center provides a welcoming and enriching experience.

Owned by Southwestern Illinois College, The Schmidt operates under its Foundation and may be rented for private events.

Our History

For over three decades, college faculty worked with student groups and the College Activities office to raise funds to acquire art. Faculty also actively sought a dedicated space on campus to display the work. However, much-needed classroom space took precedence over the notion of a gallery location. Finally, in late 1997, encouragement from a private donor gave the Foundation staff hope that this gift to the community was a real possibility.

With this promising information, Art Professor Dale Threlkeld, who had already teamed with the Foundation and private donors to introduce sculpture to the Belleville Campus, began envisioning the gallery. After he shared his ideas with Foundation Executive Director Kathy O’Dell, he enlisted the help of Adjunct Art Instructor and architect Brad Eilering who created a conceptual model of the art center.

By the end of 1998, with support from the college and its trustees, the Foundation publicly announced it had already received more than $400,000 in private gift commitments. During this initial stage, the Foundation, with the college’s endorsement, retained the firm of Woolpert, LLP, as its architectural firm and Holland-Hinrichs Construction, Inc. as its construction manager.

Early in the planning stage, college President Elmer H. Kirchoff, Ph.D., formulated a working team that included representatives of the Board of Trustees, the Foundation Board of Directors, college administrators, art faculty representatives, and construction team members. All members kept their respective groups informed of progress on the project, and Foundation Executive Director Kathy O’Dell served as chair of that team.

Ground broke in February 2001, and shortly after, the structure began to take on its uniquely identifiable shape. Selected as the executive director/curator, Libby Reuter took on the exciting yet challenging task of scheduling exhibitions and events that unite form, function, and creativity.

Please note: Freedom of expression is enshrined in the First Amendment to the United States Constitution and is therefore upheld by the William and Florence Schmidt Art Center. Freedom of expression in the arts must be preserved. The individual has the right to accept or reject any work of art for himself or herself personally, but does not have the right to suppress those works of art to which he or she may object or those artists with whom he or she does not agree.