Arts Visual Arts

Cultivating Collections at WCU Fine Art Museum

Bardo: Cultivating Collections

Whale Flips Out. Julie Armbruster and R. Brooke Priddy-Conrad, artists

This year, undergraduate students in the Exhibition Practicum course at WCU are curating the paintings gallery portion of Cultivating Collections, a multi-year series of exhibitions at the WCU Fine Art Museum that highlights specific areas of the museum’s permanent collection of artwork. The three specific areas of focus for the 2020 Cultivating Collections exhibit are paintings, ceramics, and work by Latinx and Latin American artists.

As part of the course, students selected works to display, interviewed artists and evaluated strengths and opportunities for the collection. Studio art major Cristina Colom chose Asheville-based artist Julie Armbruster. The museum added four of Armbruster’s pieces to its permanent collection in 2017. “I chose Julie because her pieces are fairly new to our collection and I wanted to start a record for her at our museum,” says Colom.

Two-Faced Kitten. Julie Armbruster

The four paintings that will be included in the Cultivating Collections exhibit were created jointly by the Newsworthy Drawing Club, a partner project between Armbruster and R. Brooke Priddy-Conrad. The artists met weekly and selected an article from the news for the other person to draw. They each created an 8×8-inch image inspired by the article and then switched canvases to add the final details to the other’s drawing. “Brooke drew my favorite initial compositions and complex and inventive body positions,” says Armbruster. “I often complemented her with emotional content, particularly in the character’s eyes and facial expressions, sprinkling a little extra weirdness on our illustrations.”

Colom says she gravitated towards this style. “Each painting tells a different narrative through the details, colors and the background setting that the characters are in,” she says. “I wanted her pieces in the museum because I have never seen this type of unique style in a gallery setting. It’s so different to see a cartoon-like style in this professional setting and I think it will attract viewers to these pieces.”

Pictured works are graphite and ink on paper mounted to wood panel, 8x8x1 inches. Each work was a gift of the Ray Griffin/Thom Robinson Collection. For more information, visit

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