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Betsy Stirratt
Grunwald Gallery

Last modified: Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Indiana University's SoFA Gallery renamed in honor of John A. Grunwald

February 7, 2011

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- The Indiana University School of Fine Arts Gallery (SoFA Gallery) has been re-named the Grunwald Gallery of Art in honor of John A. Grunwald, thanks to a significant endowed gift from his widow, Rita Grunwald.

Grunwald Naming

Grunwald Gallery Director Betsy Stirratt, left, with Rita Grunwald.

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The gallery is the region's premier contemporary art space, featuring experimental works by significant emerging and established artists as well as by faculty and students in the Henry Radford Hope School of Fine Arts, which is part of IU's College of Arts and Sciences.

John Grunwald, who died in 2009, was born in 1935, in Budapest, Hungary, to Jewish parents. He survived the Holocaust in Europe, and came to the New York in 1950. He completed an undergraduate degree in economics in 1956 at IU, where he and Rita met. After living in England and elsewhere, John and Rita returned to live in Bloomington. John spent his professional career with the David R. Webb hardwood veneer company, starting as a part-time trainee and rising to become the company's CEO. He particularly enjoyed the rich local culture, and actively participated in and supported all the arts IU offered. He was also a devoted participant in the Hungarian Studies Program, and mentored international students enrolled in the Kelley School of Business.

"John Grunwald was deeply interested in art," said IU Vice President for International Affairs Patrick O'Meara, a close friend of the Grunwalds. "I remember many occasions when he attended openings at the SoFA Gallery. He enjoyed seeing the innovative works of different artists and the lively atmosphere when students and faculty attended the opening receptions. The Grunwald Gallery will continue to foster the ideas and creative spirit that John found so engaging. The naming of the gallery in his honor is a wonderful recognition of an extraordinary person. "

SOFA Gallery

The School of Fine Arts Gallery is now known as Grunwald Gallery in honor of John Grunwald.

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"I worked in the [Fine Arts] building for at least 25 years," Rita Grunwald said. "I was a member of the Friends of Art since its inception, and worked in the bookshop for years. I feel as though I grew up in this building." The endowment is unrestricted, intentionally so, said Rita. "Betsy Stirratt has done a fabulous job with the gallery on a pittance. I wanted to leave it up to her to decide how best to use the money."

Stirratt, the gallery's longtime director, came to IU as a graduate student in Fine Arts in 1983. "I also feel like I grew up in this building," Stirratt said. "Rita's gift will really be transformative for the gallery, and will allow us to present ambitious projects that we would not have been able to do otherwise."

Rita Grunwald's decision to name the Grunwald Gallery began with a discussion about an exhibit of photographs by Yuri Dojc of an old Jewish school in eastern Slovakia. The building was frozen in time since the day in 1943 when all the school's children and teachers were captured by Nazis and sent to concentration camps. The classrooms and hallways sat undisturbed and undiscovered for more than half a century, the books and notebooks slowly flaking away, silent testimony to a vanished world. The exhibit of photographs will be on display in the Grunwald Gallery in the fall. A symposium on the exhibit is scheduled for Thursday, Sept. 1, and will be followed on Friday, Sept. 2, by a celebration officially unveiling the new name of the gallery.

"Everything that you've read or seen about children and the Holocaust, John experienced that," Rita said. "Because Slovakian Jews predominantly spoke Hungarian, sponsoring this exhibit and its visit to Bloomington seemed a perfect way to honor his memory. Things just snowballed from there, and that's how we got to the idea of naming the gallery in his memory. John and I did not have any children, and I wanted to find a way to perpetuate the Grunwald name. I've been thinking about how to do this for a long time."

"The SoFA Gallery has been an integral part of the vibrant arts scene on the Bloomington campus," said Provost and Executive Vice President Karen Hanson. "This generous gift will ensure that the Grunwald Gallery will continue to offer innovative exhibitions and programming and allow members of our community to continue to experience and learn from art."

"The College of Arts and Sciences is deeply appreciative of this generous gift to the gallery," said David Zaret, interim dean of the College of Arts and Sciences. "This gift will significantly enhance the ability of the gallery to carry on the important work of fostering new art and new artists."

The Grunwald Gallery is in the Fine Arts Building in the center of campus. Exhibits are supplemented with educational performances, lectures, tours and other programs. Events are free and open to the public and the gallery is accessible to people with disabilities.