About - Southwestern Illinois College

Mission

The William and Florence Schmidt Art Center facilitates visual literacy through exhibitions of art and cultural artifacts while inspiring, informing, and connecting the college and community.

Overview of Art Center Activities

With changing exhibitions throughout the year, the Schmidt showcases not only the art created by professional artists from around the country but by local high school and college artists who are just beginning their journey in the art world. In addition, the Schmidt Art Center hosts cultural events in conjunction with professional artists, poets, and musicians. Owning over nine hundred works of art, the Schmidt Art Center boasts the most extensive collection held by any two-year college in Illinois including paintings, photographs, artifacts, and sculptures.

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

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.