In the Loop
Friends and Giving : Sep 17, 2021

University Gallery named after long-time UF patron and Florida arts advocate and historian

Gainesville, Fla.—The University of Florida University Gallery is being named after long-time patron and UF alumnus Gary R. Libby.

The gallery, located in Fine Arts Building B, is the largest of three exhibition spaces in the University Galleries system, which also includes two satellite spaces in Fine Arts C and Grinter Hall. The gallery will be formally recognized as the Gary R. Libby University Gallery this December.

Libby has been a donor to the UF School of Art and Art History, the galleries’ home department, for over 20 years. He has made significant contributions across a variety of programs, including art history, museum studies, graphic design, and art education.

“The University Gallery is a historical landmark on the University of Florida campus,” says Onye Ozuzu, dean of the College of the Arts. “This exhibition venue fosters innovation, creativity, and criticality while inviting conversations and facilitating an exchange of ideas. Gary’s philanthropy helps achieve the missions of the gallery and the School of Art and Art History. His years of dedication have helped propel students to seize opportunities as scholars and artists in the 21st century.”

Libby is originally from Boston, Massachusetts, and attended high school in Florida. After graduating from Fort Myers Senior High School, Libby attended the University of Florida to pursue a bachelor’s and master’s degree in English literature. After graduation from Tulane with a master's in English Literature and the completion of all coursework and examinations for a Ph.D. degree in 19th-century humanities, Libby was hired as an assistant professor in the arts and humanities by Stetson University in 1972, where he remained before transitioning to a career as an arts administrator, writer and curator.

In 1977, Libby became the executive director of the Museum of Arts and Sciences in Daytona Beach, Florida. He was later admitted to the Smithsonian Institution’s professional advancement program and received a certificate in museum management and administration and continued as a visiting professor of arts and humanities at Stetson for five years.

Libby served as the executive director of the Museum of Arts and Sciences for over 25 years and is the museum’s first director emeritus. Under his leadership, the museum became accredited by the American Alliance of Museums and a Smithsonian Affiliate. The museum also grew from one location of 7,000 square feet to 120,000 square feet with three different locations.  

Libby has curated several exhibitions that have received national acclaim and celebration. The Celebrating Florida – Works of Art from the Vickers Collection exhibition won the 1995 State of Florida Sesquicentennial Award. The exhibition, including a companion book and video, toured the state and concluded at the State Capitol Gallery in the newly constructed capitol building in Tallahassee, Florida.

Libby is a published author whose most recent books include a 2015 revised edition of Cuba: A History in Art, the 2009 Reflections: Paintings of Florida 1865-1965, and Reflections II: Watercolors of Florida 1835-2000, which won the bronze medal in the 2012 Florida Book Awards.

His Coast to Coast: The Contemporary Landscape in Florida was awarded a medal in 1999 as one of the best museum publications in the southeastern United States. His book Cuba: A History in Art received the silver medal in 1998, and in 1996 his book Celebrating Florida: Works of Art from the Vickers Collection was awarded the silver medal from the Southeastern Museum Conference. He also authored A Treasury of American Art in 2003, funded by the Henry Luce Foundation.

A dedicated volunteer, Libby was past president of the Florida Art Museum Directors Association (FAMDA) and former secretary of the Florida Association of Museums (FAM), which presented him with a Lifetime Achievement Award in 1998. In 2000, he received the FAMDA Lifetime Achievement Award. Libby has served on the Florida Arts Council, as a trustee at Stetson University, and as a trustee of the University of Florida Foundation. He was elected to the Board of Visitors at the Cornell Fine Arts Museum at Rollins College and appointed as the at-large member of the 2014 Daytona Beach Charter Review Commission. He represented all Florida Museums on the federal level for both FAMDA and FAM as chair of both organizations’ government liaison committees.

“Over 50 years ago as a first-year student with an interest in pursuing a career in law, I wandered into the University Gallery to enjoy its very first major exhibition under the masterful leadership of the first director, the late, Roy Craven,” Libby says. “That treasured experience started a process in my life that changed the direction of my future in many wonderful and rewarding ways. It is an honor beyond description to now have my name added to this critically important resource for the entire university and as an example of excellence for the State of Florida and the nation.”

Every fall, the newly named Gary R. Libby University Gallery features nationally and internationally known artists. In the spring, the gallery is home to a bi-annual studio art faculty exhibition, a juried student art show, and the Master of Fine Arts graduating thesis project exhibitions.

Its primary mission is to provide the greater Gainesville community with a contemporary venue that continually explores new directions in visual art while incorporating historical perspectives. The gallery also collaborates with myriad UF colleges, community and regional entities in creating a trans-disciplinary venue for artwork that is relevant to education at UF and the greater region.

“Thanks to Gary’s invaluable support, the University Galleries program has strengthened its dialogue about the future of art, the environment, diversity, and histories of the contributions of people of diverse agency in art and curatorial practices,” says Jesús Fuenmayor, director and visiting curator of the UF University Galleries. “Gary’s investment in the success of the School of Art and Art History has helped us actualize our deep commitment to the visual arts at the University of Florida and foster the next generation of arts curators, makers, and historians.”

“I am very pleased to have this great honor given to me by the Board of Trustees and staff of the University of Florida and the University of Florida Foundation,” Libby says. “I extend much appreciation to the College of the Arts Dean Onye Ozuzu for her exceptional leadership, the University Galleries staff and its current director Jesús Fuenmayor, and to the college’s Director of Advancement Lula Dawit, whose exceptional professionalism helped educate my decision on how I might help stimulate transformational change for hundreds of students each year enrolled in many areas within the School of Art and Art History.”

Libby also credits former leadership who helped shape the galleries’ legacy.

“I am thankful for the former College of the Arts Dean Lucinda Lavelli and former University Galleries Director Amy Vigilante-Longini for their friendship and leadership over the last 20 years as I focused on permanently endowing a number of student-centered areas in the School of Art and Art History.”

Libby has been retired since 2005 and remains an active curator and art historian. He currently writes for a number of online and print journals and continues to teach at various colleges and universities in Florida.

Learn more about Gary R. Libby at his website and on Wikipedia.