Opposition grows to closing of UConn-Avery Point gallery

Groton — Nearly 800 people have signed an online petition asking the University of Connecticut not to close the Alexey von Schlippe Gallery at the Avery Point campus, but a university spokeswoman said the university would not reconsider its decision due to state budget cuts.

“The university's financial situation is very serious,” UConn spokeswoman Stephanie Reitz wrote in an email.

Since 2010, UConn has been cut $74 million, with another $34 million in projected cuts this fiscal year and an additional $10 million in cuts to the health center, she said.

On Tuesday, the Groton Town Council voted 8-0 to draft a resolution and send it to the university administration and state legislators urging that the gallery remain open.

“It is a treasure,” said Councilor Diane Barber, whose two children attended UConn-Avery Point.

Councilors made the decision after hearing from David Madacsi, a professor emeritus and co-founder of the gallery.

He explained that the gallery would close in July, as the campus is eliminating the curator/director position that co-founder Julia Pavone has held since 1992.

"If implemented, that closing will eliminate all the arts and cultural programs initiated and developed by the gallery over its 24-year history," Madacsi said.

The region, meanwhile, is trying to build economic development partly on cultural tourism, he said.

“It’s already there,” he said. “To replace this would — I can’t imagine what it would cost.”

The gallery is named for Russian-born Alexey von Schlippe, an artist and teacher who taught at Norwich Free Academy and then became UConn-Avery Point’s first full professor in 1969.

When he died, he left behind a trove of paintings, and a decision was made to open a gallery in his memory.

Over the years, the gallery has hosted national and international artists and runs an annual exhibition series of typically six exhibitions a year.

It has brought sculptors to the Groton and New London waterfronts and jazz musicians and Shakespeare performers to the lawn of the Branford Mansion.

Anne D’Alleva, dean of fine arts, said each of the university’s schools, colleges, campuses and groups like student services were asked to identify cuts.

“And a lot of these cuts are painful. We’re cutting valuable programs, we’re cutting valuable positions,” she said. “But we need to live within our budget, and our budget is shrinking.”

The Avery Point campus made the decision to close the gallery before its current interim director took over, D’Alleva said.

“At the end of the day, our students need to be able to get their diplomas. I recognize that a lot of the cuts are very painful, but for Avery Point, this was their best decision,” she said.

“Everybody is bearing the brunt of these cuts. Everybody’s contributing. Everybody’s trying, giving back and trying to make it work.”

d.straszheim@theday.com

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