These Walls Do Talk
The art at The Alfond Inn at Rollins speaks volumes.
by Denise Bates Enos | photo by Scott Cook
Every hotel has art, often selected by a designer to complement a color scheme or fill an open space—but the collection at The Alfond Inn is far more than a decorating accent. Thoughtfully collected and mindfully curated exclusively for the College, the art makes a statement and tells a story.
It’s a multifaceted tale, one that accentuates the Inn’s academic environs. Each piece in The Alfond Collection of Contemporary Art speaks to the value of a liberal arts education, says Barbara Alfond ’68, who with her husband, Ted ’68, established the collection. The couple worked with independent Boston-based curator Abigail Ross Goodman to build the collection, which comprises more than 100 contemporary pieces, including paintings, photographs, sculptures, and alternative visual forms. “We firmly believe in the alignment of the visual arts with the learning experience,” Alfond says. “There are expressions that can be made visually, that can fill in the blanks when words fail us.”
And many of the pieces incorporate words in some way—a conscious choice to underscore the importance of language, communication, and global connections. Goodman points out one piece in particular: Language Must Speak for Itself, a large-scale neon work by American artist Joseph Kosuth that takes pride of place above the reception desk.
Text-based art such as this piece emphasizes the connection between art and education. “Conceptual text works evoke both a visual and an intellectual response from the viewer, and dialogue is at the heart of the experience of education,” Goodman says. “That’s important historically as well as conceptually as a trigger for what art can do, how art can open both visual and aesthetic possibilities and also cerebral possibilities.”
Just as art and education are inextricably linked, the Alfonds and Rollins College have a permanent bond. “Ted and I met at Rollins, so it’s hard to separate Rollins from our own personal history,” she says. “We’ve always been devoted to it.” The Boston-based couple have remained involved with the College over the years, serving on the board and donating generously to the school.
Undoubtedly, their most remarkable donation to date is The Alfond Collection, and it pays homage to their ongoing connection to and appreciation for Rollins. “This collection embodies some of the notions that influenced their intellectual involvement while they were at Rollins,” says Ena Heller, Bruce A. Beal director of the Cornell Fine Arts Museum. “They believe that Rollins made them who they are, and because of their love of art and love of learning, they wanted to create a collection that would be ours.”
In addition to Kosuth, among the 57 artists represented in the collection are Philip-Lorca diCorcia, Tracey Emin, Lalla Essaydi, Teresita Fernández, An-My Lê, Maya Lin, Jaume Plensa, Martha Rosler, Haim Steinbach, Lawrence Weiner, and Jack Whitten. Pieces will also be displayed at the Cornell, often in conjunction with other exhibits. “We will always keep artwork in the Inn, but will rotate pieces in a way that will create thematic exhibitions that will dialogue with collections at the museum,” Heller says.
With this collection, the Alfonds have created a profound connection between the Inn and the College, and between art and education. When asked how she hopes people will respond to the collection, Alfond responds, “We hope that people will believe that art is for everyone. And that it can inspire us, no matter what setting we find it in.”