An Artful Showcase for Students
Carolyn Wilson has always felt a special connection to art students at the University of South Florida – after all, she was one herself. A USF alumna with a bachelor’s degree in religious studies from 1981 and another in art from 2011, Wilson identified deeply with the artistic challenge and rewards experienced by students. And that inspired her to create something remarkable in her own right. Her canvas, in this case, a stunning new space on the Tampa campus for Fine Arts students to display their works, in the Carolyn M. Wilson Gallery – made possible by a heartfelt gift of $400,000.
The gallery opened in March 2017 and represented the second major gift to the College of The Arts by the owner of the Wilson Company, a Tampa-based property management and development firm. In 2011, she gave $500,000 toward art scholarships. Then – twice annually, for the next five years – she graciously hosted an exhibit and reception for USF’s art students at her Franklin Exchange complex in downtown Tampa. But Wilson was also keenly aware of the need for a permanent space for students to display their works on campus, and enthusiastically lent her support in 2016 to the complete renovation and naming of a spacious modern gallery. It provides vital professional development for students and a showcase for the graduates’ annual thesis event.
“Carolyn loves the students and is very dedicated to them and their success,” says Wallace Wilson, director of the School of Art and Art History and a professor of studio art. College of The Arts dean James Moy says Wilson’s generosity puts the art school on a plane with some of the very best in the country and will give students “a real handle on what it takes to be competitive in the professional art world.” At the grand opening, Wilson was delighted by the student works surrounding her. “This,” she said, “is money well spent.”