Over the past 25 years, the Wexner Center for the Arts (the Wex) has become an internationally acclaimed gem. A cultural hub on The Ohio State University campus, the Wex offers audiences a powerful and progressive mix of visual arts, performing arts, film and video, architecture and design, and education programs for all ages—truly bringing art to life.
“While we are artist-centric, we are also audience-focused. We seek to offer a wide array of programs where audiences can encounter contemporary art in all of its fascinating guises,” said Sherri Geldin, director of the Wexner Center for the Arts. “I would like for people to see the Wexner Center for the Arts as illuminating, innovative, and imaginative—a destination point for unique and sometimes surprising cultural experiences that add a certain luster to life in Columbus.”
Founded in 1989 as a “research laboratory for the exploration and advancement of contemporary art,” the Wex has presented acclaimed exhibitions, performances, and films, as well as conversations with world-renowned visual artists, filmmakers, musicians, dancers, theater producers, and designers. The building, made possible thanks to a generous gift from L Brands Founder and Chairman Leslie H. Wexner in memory of his father, features four exhibition galleries, a dedicated 300-seat film/video theater, black box theater, intimate video exhibition space, café, and bookstore, in addition to the 2,400-seat Mershon Auditorium which it oversees.
In 2012, the Wex broke records with an extraordinary Annie Leibovitz exhibit. Over the past 25 years, the center has attracted about 5 million visitors to 250 exhibitions, 4,600 film screenings, and nearly 1,000 performances.
“I think the presence of the Wex in Columbus has given people a sense of pride and also demonstrated that there is, even in the modest Midwest, an appetite for outstanding contemporary art,” Sherri said.
The Wex provides pioneering educational public programs for all ages and backgrounds, especially opportunities for youth and teens to find their unique voices through art. The center’s Artist Residencies engage and generously support working artists through an active, creative residency and commissioning program, and its Wexner Prize, first awarded in 1992, “recognizes living artists working in any medium or discipline whose achievements reflect bold originality, innovation, and creative excellence.” The Wex draws intellectual resources from across campus, and brings abundant creative resources to many colleges—from arts to business to medicine to law. Earlier this year, the center culminated Via Brasil, an ambitious multi-year initiative featuring contemporary art from Brazil in all media.
In celebration of the Wex’s 25th anniversary, it is presenting Transfigurations: Modern Masters from the Wexner Family Collection, the first-ever exhibition of Leslie and Abigail Wexner’s personal collection that features masterworks by Pablo Picasso, Alberto Giacometti, and Jean Dubuffet, among others. It will be on view from September 21–December 31, 2014.
“The Wexners are making an absolutely unprecedented gesture in allowing us to share these treasures with the public. I think it’s very much their way of expressing appreciation for the support the community has shown the art center over the years,” Sherri said.
As for the future?
“I would love to see this institution earn a place in the hearts and minds of the Columbus community that is equal to Buckeye football,” Sherri said. “I want people to feel that what happens at the Wex, while perhaps not at the fever pitch of Saturday afternoon at The Shoe, nonetheless makes life in Columbus more richly and uniquely experienced. And I want the rest of the world to recognize that creative excellence is not, and has never been, confined to the coasts!”