Snite Museum of Art

University of Notre Dame

Notre Dame, IN





From its earliest years, the University of Notre Dame understood the importance of the visual arts to the academy.  In 1874, Notre Dame founder Rev. Edward Sorin, C.S.C., brought a Vatican artist to campus, where for the next 17 years Luigi Gregori beautified interiors -- painting the interior of the Golden Dome and the Columbus murals within the Main Building, and creating murals within the Basilica of the Sacred Heart.

An early exhibition space on campus was the Charles A. Wightman Memorial Art Gallery located within the University library in 1924.  In 1952, at the request of Rev. Theodore M. Hesburgh, C.S.C., Mr. Ignatius A. O'Shaughnessy funded the liberal arts building, O'Shaughnessy Hall, which included art galleries.  These galleries are now an integral part of the Snite Museum of Art and are currently used for the presentation of traveling and temporary exhibitions.

During the 1950s, Father Hesburgh invited Croatian sculptor Ivan Mestrovic to teach and work at Notre Dame, and the Mestrovic Studio was constructed for the "maestro."  During the last seven years of his life, Mestrovic created public artworks for campus, including the Shaheen-Mestrovic Memorial that illustrates the story of Jesus and the Samaritan woman at the well.  Mestrovic's masterpiece, his Pieta, is located in the Basilica of the Sacred Heart. The Mestrovic initiative was followed by Fr. Hesburgh commissioning nationally-recognized artist Millard Sheets to create the Word of Life, 1964, a 12-story granite-mosaic mural on the exterior of the Hesburgh Library.  This iconic artwork is seen by millions of television viewers during each home football game, exemplifying Notre Dame's mission to instruct and inspire.

In 1975, the Fred B. Snite family donated funds to construct the Snite Museum of Art, which opened in 1980, bridging the O'Shaughnessy Art Gallery with the Mestrovic Sculpture Studio, which was converted into a gallery.  With the opening of the Snite Museum of Art, the Museum was finally able to exhibit its rapidly developing collections of art and to offer professional education programs.

Snite Museum collections are interpreted by special exhibitions, publications, and educational outreach programs offered by two professional museum educators -- one dedicated to Notre Dame faculty and students, the other focusing on the local community and, primarily, its schoolchildren.

Curriculum-Structured Tours, offered to more than three thousand Notre Dame students annually, enhance the study of the humanities by using the collections of the Snite Museum as an educational resource.  Faculty members collaborate with the museum educator to create a tailor-made visit for their University class.  Similarly, guided tours are available in French, German and Spanish for University students studying these languages.  First-year students compete in writing essays that describe at least one work of art in the Snite Museum collection; the University president and the Museum director recognize prizewinners at the annual First Year of Studies Convocation. University audiences are also served by lectures, by symposia and by exhibitions curated by Notre Dame faculty. Museum benefactors provide stipends for three annual Museum internships: two for graduate art history students who assist curatorial research and one for a graduate graphic design student.  Snite Museum interns have gone on to teach at universities such as Yale, to fill curatorial positions in American institutions such as the J. Paul Getty Museum, and to work in auction houses and private galleries.  Additionally, Museum curators teach art history and anthropology courses covering subjects such as the history of photography, Mesoamerican art, and Native American Art.

Community outreach at Notre Dame is rooted in the University's belief in "service to one's community."  The Museum provides curriculum-related tours for 7,000 area-school children, after-school and summer programs at the Robinson Community Learning Center, summer art camps for at-risk children, art instruction for ACE student teachers and teacher workshops for local K-12 instructors.  As just one example, local at-risk children visit the Museum and examine contemporary sculpture to augment their introduction to geometry.  The Museum Friends membership organization provides the salary of the curator of education for public programs, as well as organizes adult art history classes, group travel to museums and regional cultural centers, and community social events, such as the Annual Christmas Benefit.

The Snite Museum of Art is located on the campus of the University of Notre Dame, near South Bend, Indiana. Please see the Museum's website for hours and admission fees.

Visit the Table of Contents for Resource Library for thousands of articles and essays on American art.

© Copyright 2007 Traditional Fine Arts Organization, Inc., an Arizona nonprofit corporation. All rights reserved.