Gift to provide seed money for art research center at UO

March 15, 2017

A generous gift from Robert Gamblin, BS ’70, will provide seed funding for an art research center to “spark energy and interest and excitement” in the School of Architecture and Allied Arts.

Robert GamblinGamblin, who serves on A&AA’s Dean’s Advancement Council, and his wife, Catherine, decided on the gift after lengthy discussions with the School.

“We just don’t want to make this gift and have it evaporate into erasers and studio supplies,” Gamblin said. “For us, $100,000 is an enormous gift. It needs to be something that can give the Department [of Art] something it doesn’t have.”

When UO President Michael Schill announced that the university would devote more resources to research, A&AA administrators approached the Gamblins with the idea of creating a Center for Art Research at UO.

“We said, ‘Great, we’ll put that seed money in to get it going,’ ” Gamblin said. “Everyone knows it’s not enough, but it’s enough to go for grants and asking other people for money.”

Gamblin, the School’s 2014 Lawrence Medal honoree, founded Gamblin Artists Colors in 1980. The firm is now one of the premier artist paint companies in the world and the only independent American company dedicated to oil painting materials, which are used by renowned painters including Chuck Close. A separate enterprise, Gamblin Conservation Colors, develops paints used routinely to restore the likes of Van Eyck, da Vinci, and Van Gogh at museums including the J. Paul Getty Museum and the National Gallery.

Although Gamblin’s specialty is painting, he wanted his gift to address the needs of all students in the Department of Art, not just painters.

“We really wanted to meet the department’s needs from their perspective. It’s something that can be shared across all the disciplines in the art department.”

The concept of an art research center offers nearly boundless opportunities.

“Research is an integral part of every artist’s practice,” A&AA Dean Christoph Lindner said. “The new Center for Art Research will make it possible to support and promote the forms of enquiry, critique, reflection, and experimentation that are essential to creative practice. It will also enable us to communicate the urgency and enduring value of art in contemporary society."

Lindner envisions the center as a “new space where artistic exchange, innovation, and exploration can occur in a collaborative, inclusive environment.”

The Gamblins and Department of Art Head Carla Bengtson plan to visit the University of California, Berkeley, “to quiz them on exactly how they put their art research center together,” Gamblin said. 

Bengtson noted thatWe are looking forward to an opportunity to have a conversation about [Berkeley’s] successes and challenges.”

Gamblin foresees the gift being used to broaden UO art students’ exposure to contemporary artists and art practices.

“Visiting artists could be brought in to address a particular theme that would be shared across disciplines. They’d take a theme and build it up, with exhibitions and publications possibly being part that theme,” he said.

Tetons at dusk, oil on linen
Above: Tetons at dusk, oil on linen, 2006, 36” x 48,” by Robert Gamblin. Collection of Riverlake partners. 

Gamblin has fond memories of his own years as an art major and hopes his gift will help future UO art students gain insights and inspiration.

“One thing I keep talking about is what a great week it was when I was a student at UO when an art star from New York was brought in, or when Buckminster Fuller came, and how much excitement that stimulated in the art department,” he said.

“That’s part of this: there will be money to bring people in, for studio visits, special classes. Then the students take that energy and run with it.”

Lindner views the Gamblins’ gift as significant boost for the future of A&AA.

“I cannot thank Robert Gamblin enough for his vision and support,” Lindner said. “This research center is key to unlocking the next phase in the creative and intellectual life of our talented art community."

Ankeny at 2nd, oil on linen on panel
Above: Ankeny at 2nd, oil on linen on panel, 2012, 18" x 24," by Robert Gamblin.