Transylvania University’s Morlan Gallery was launched when the Mitchelle Fine Arts Center was dedicated in the fall of 1966. Named after the late Mrs. Myrtle Critchfield Mitchell, president and chairman of the board of the Coca-Cola bottling plant of Lexington, the Mitchell Fine Arts Center was Transylvania’s most ambitious physical plant undertaking up to that time.
|Art professor Dan Selter helping with the Morlan Gallery remodel as photographed for the March 1979 "Transylvania University Crier."|
The Halford and Perywn Morlan Gallery was a tribute to the then late Halford J. Morlan, who was described as a “distinguished physician and churchman of Phoenix, Arizona, and to his wife, Perwyn Morlan, an artist whose work will long be treasured.”
In 1978, Nancy Wolsk joined the university staff as a part-time instructor of art history and part-time gallery director. At the time, Wolsk said of the Morlan Gallery, “I am not displeased with the basic design of Morlan Gallery.” However, the walls —which were covered with brown peg board—were an “optical frenzy” and were niched by structural beams.
That simply would not do.
With scarce funds, major wall construction was completed by professionals, but all the finishing work was left to Wolsk (now Dr. Nancy Wolsk, associate professor of art history) and art professor Dan Selter (now emeritus) and three dedicated work study students. It was a very long and difficult task that included filling thousands of nail holes, sanding the walls by hand, and donning respirators to seal the walls with polyester resin that reportedly filled the entire campus with a horrendous odor. The gallery was finally completed with the much appreciated help of a Pi Kappa Alpha fraternity pledge class.
Still in its original location—the main floor of the Mitchell Fine Art Center on Transylvania’s historic campus—Morlan Gallery continues to offer art work that challenges, encourages a variety of viewpoints, and features work from artists around the world and around the corner. The peg board walls are thankfully long gone, but the pioneering spirit endures.
The gallery exhibition season spans September to May and features contemporary art that represents Western and non-Western viewpoints, gives voice to the marginalized, and encourages experimental installation, performance, and digital artworks.
The gallery is open weekdays, noon to 5 p.m., and by special appointment. All events are free and open to the public. Parking is also free and easily accessible.The Morlan Gallery participates in the Lexington Gallery Hop, a cooperative effort among for-profit galleries, not-for-profit arts groups, and private artists' studios.
Founded in 1780, Transylvania is the nation’s 16th oldest institution of higher learning and is consistently ranked in national publications as one of the top liberal arts colleges in the country. Nestled in the heart of Lexington, Ky., Transylvania and the Morlan Gallery are vital parts of this creative city.