The List Gallery: A Hidden Art Sanctuary

Tucked away on the east side of the Lang Performing Arts Center, the List Gallery is a peaceful safe haven on campus that often goes ignored. I discovered the List Gallery during my first week at Swarthmore during my freshman year; I contacted Andrea Packard, the director, and have been a student gallery monitor ever since. When I work in the gallery, I greet visitors, tidy up the space, provide brochures and posters about the works on show, and answer any questions that visitors may have about the exhibition. 

Each year, the List Gallery exhibits four contemporary artists, ranging from widely celebrated artists to artists newly emerging in the field. The April and May exhibitions – which highlight the senior thesis exhibitions of Swarthmore’s art majors – are the perfect way for the student body of Swarthmore to get acquainted with the space. The opening receptions are a fun social scene with snacks and refreshments, great conversation, and thought provoking artwork crafted by fellow students. In June, the List Gallery also displays artwork created by Swarthmore alumni artists. 

A view of the interior of the List Gallery

Typically, the mediums displayed in the List Gallery are mediums that are part of the art curriculum at Swarthmore College – painting, photography, and sculpture. However, sometimes the gallery director and the exhibition committee select alternative mediums that connect to other artistic philosophies. 

The most recent exhibition at the List Gallery, Piece Together: The Quilts of Mary Lee Bendolph, is one of those special exhibitions that highlights alternate, more unique mediums – specifically, quilting. While quilting is not taught as an art course at Swarthmore College, many art historians and art critics liken these quilts to renditions of modern art; their geometry and color choices are striking. 

Some of the Gee’s Bend quilts

This exhibition at the List Gallery also highlights Swarthmore’s continual commitment to incorporating interdisciplinary learning into all aspects of life. While this exhibition clearly relates to art and art history, studying the history of the impoverished Southern town of Gee’s Bend where the quilts were crafted has sociological and economical implications as well. In fact, in the catalogue for the show, Sarah Willie-LeBreton, the chair of the Sociology/Anthropology department as well as a Sociology professor, discusses DuBois’s ideas in conjunction with the town of Gee’s Bend and Mary Lee Bendolph. In addition, Lucas Wilson, professor of Economics and Africana studies at Mount Holyoke College, writes about the implications of labor in a small economy like that of Gee’s Bend. 

Whether the List Gallery is exhibiting works of alumni or current students, photography shows or painting shows, it is a peaceful corner of Swarthmore College that warrants a visit. Large windows with foliage-filled views let in ample natural light and the expansive white and light wood walls create the perfect reflective environment. If you’d like to visit, it is located in the Lang Performing Arts Center and is open Tuesday through Sunday from 12pm-5pm. The phone number is 610-328-7811. 




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