Mission & History
As a teaching museum, the mission of the Wright Museum of Art advances the educational goals of Beloit College. Our principal purpose is to provide the college and local community with diverse opportunities to appreciate, interact with, and understand the visual arts through exhibitions, collections, and programming. The Wright promotes experiential learning through an engagement with art that is both visual and tactile. It also endeavors to promote a critical reading of art as it shapes our cultural and intellectual history.
Click here to visit the Beloit College archives page for the Wright Museum of Art.
In 1892, Helen Brace Emerson donated her personal collection of art to Beloit College and created its first program in art appreciation. She was also instrumental in bringing to Beloit a collection of plaster casts of ancient Greek sculpture that had been exhibited at the World's Columbian Exposition in Chicago in 1893. These were presented to the college in 1894, and strengthened an art program built on tangible works for study and appreciation.
Helen Brace Emerson continued to be the guiding spirit of the program, acquiring paintings and sculpture for the collection. Family friend Ellen Battell Eldridge provided an endowment in memory of her husband Azariah and Mary Ripley Goodwin left the college a collection of artifacts from East Asia in her 1912 bequest, which included a well-documented collection of 19th century imperial Chinese textiles.
In 1930, the college partnered with the city of Beloit to fund the construction of the Wright Museum for $139,000. Modeled after the Fogg at Harvard, the Wright Museum featured a two-story central atrium with a large skylight and surrounding galleries. A second floor was added to the atrium in 1949 and an annex in 1960 to accommodate studio art classes. Additional gallery and facility renovations occurred in 1996 and 2009.
Over the years, the museum has grown to include Asian gifts from Carolyn Pitkin McCready and Katharine E. Gurley (in memory of her husband William). Beloit College graduate Laura Aldridge Neese ('12) donated a large number of European prints and contemporary sculpture pieces to the museum throughout her lifetime. Today, the Wright Museum houses approximately 4,500 objects, mostly European and American prints and paintings, College portraits, 19th century historic architecture photos, Soviet political propaganda posters, and Asian decorative arts, icons, and woodblock prints.