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Gift Funds Home for DC Art at AU Museum

By Carolyn Supinka

Carolyn Alper

Carolyn Alper, BA studio arts '68

Thanks to a generous donation by Carolyn Alper, BA studio arts ’68, local art will soon have a home of its own at American University.

Alper’s gift to the American University Museum at the Katzen Arts Center will fund the Alper Initiative for Washington Art. It will support the creation of a space on the museum’s first floor for display of work by DC artists and for a digital archive of Washington art. The initiative will also sponsor lectures, films, and other events. Construction will begin in August 2015, and the space will open in January 2016.

Alper, a native Washingtonian, is committed to preserving the heritage of local art and to supporting artists working currently in the region.

An artist herself, she studied painting under Morris Louis and Gene Davis, both from DC. That formative artistic experience, she says, made her fall in love with Washington arts. In 1971, she and three fellow students cofounded the Foundry Gallery, a cooperative art space that is still showcasing the work of new and emerging artists.

She envisions the Alper Initiative for Washington Art as a meeting space for members of DC’s thriving arts community. “I hope it will encourage Washington artists and become a place where artists can convene and talk. Art talk is the most creative stuff in the world,” she says.

Jack Rasmussen, curator and director of the American University Museum, believes the Alper Initiative will bring some much needed attention to Washington art.

“It will allow us to have tightly focused exhibitions,” he says. “We want it to be the place you go to when you want to learn about your city and its history and what came before you as an artist—a place to understand and reevaluate your heritage. We are working very hard on building a great collection of Washington art, and we are bringing in curators to put together exhibitions that will be of interest to artists in the community.”

Though Washington has no shortage of cultural institutions, Alper believes the AU Museum is the perfect location for her initiative. “I think it’s the only place,” she says. “Where else would be more appropriate?”

Rasmussen agrees. “We are committed to our community, and I think that’s what’s made us a success so far,” he says. “When you come to the museum, you’re greeted by a member of the community. Our volunteers are members of the community—and in our programming, we always include Washington artists. This is something that no other museum does.”