CARLINVILLE - Blackburn College has received a financial gift to bolster a wide range of arts education programs, celebrate creative expression and establish a lasting legacy within the institution. The gift, made by the family of Blackburn Trustee James D. (J. D.) Sandfort honors his mother and lifelong Carlinville resident Sharon K. Sandfort. During a special ribbon-cutting ceremony this month, Blackburn unveiled the new name for the campus' visual art gallery, The Sharon K. Sandfort Gallery of Art.
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The private ceremony was attended by Sharon Sandfort, unaware that she was being honored during the evening. She was surprised to see her name prominently displayed on the gallery entrance as she entered the venue. The celebration included a dinner with family, friends, and Blackburn leaders and featured a birthday cake to celebrate her upcoming 80th birthday.
President Greg Meyer welcomed guests and expressed Blackburn's appreciation for Sandfort's generosity. "It gives Blackburn the opportunity for many more artist exhibits and programs in the Art Department - an essential piece of a Liberal Arts curriculum."
During the event, Sandfort articulated the inspiration and significance of the gift. "My mother was one of six children. Grew up here in Carlinville. Married at the age of 18. Had two sons, my younger brother Daryl and myself. Job changes and hard times led to multiple moves. I think we moved 21 times before I reached the age of 18. During all these moves and hard times, she was always positive. Optimistic. Hopeful for the future. Confident life would be easier for my brother and me. During the last two years, she has battled cancer, COVID-19, and pneumonia. And had some problems with mobility. Does she get discouraged? Not that I have ever seen. Still optimistic and hopeful for the future. Her great attitude and amazing support have been an inspiration to me and our entire family. So, in honor of her upcoming 80th birthday, my wife, Kirsten, and I have chosen to name this gallery The Sharon K. Sandfort Gallery of Art."
Blackburn's creative programming has been of significant interest to Sharon Sandfort. Over the years, she and her friends enjoyed attending various community events, particularly those in Bothwell and the Visual Arts Center. The gift will also bolster Blackburn's ability to invite regional and national artists for the College's and local community's education and advancement.
"The Sharon K. Sandfort Gallery of Art represents a tribute to the Sandfort legacy while also reinforcing Blackburn's commitment to fostering artistic expression and providing students, faculty, staff, alumni and the wider community space to engage with captivating works of art," said Sarah Koplinski, Interim Vice President for Institutional Advancement. "We are grateful for the Sandfort family's commitment to enabling opportunity for future generations of Blackburn students and enriching the Carlinville community."
The Department of Fine Arts at Blackburn provides a high-quality, comprehensive education to students exploring artistic areas, including design, painting, ceramics, new media, and photography. Within the College's unique student-led Work Program, students have opportunities not usually available to undergraduates, including producing, curating, and managing exhibitions. In addition to serving as a space to feature student art shows throughout the year, the department also hosts events with guest artists, including recent exhibits for Patricia Wier Mynka and Christine Adame, as well as faculty art shows featuring work from Blackburn’s exceptional educators Craig Newsom, Christopher Day, Brandace Cloud and Jody Jedicka.
"This generous gift will allow us to expand our reach for new artists and guests in and out of the area," said Newsom, Professor and Pegram Endowed Chair of Fine Arts at Blackburn. "Doing so will significantly broaden our potential offerings and undoubtedly enrich the student and community experience. It is, essentially, a priceless gift to the College."
About Blackburn College
Founded in 1837, Blackburn College is a four-year, Presbyterian-related, co-educational liberal arts college located in Carlinville, IL. One of only ten federally-recognized Work Colleges, Blackburn has the only program in the nation fully managed by students. Balancing academic rigor and experiential learning, each student at Blackburn gains substantial experience and develops critical skills by contributing to their community, all while building a resume and earning their degree. U.S. News & World Report has recognized Blackburn College as one of the best colleges in the Midwest region for 2023. Blackburn has also been named a Top Performer for Social Mobility in their Best Colleges guide for 2020, 2021, 2022, and 2023. The Washington Monthly ranked Blackburn first in Illinois for performance by students receiving Pell Grants in 2023 and twice previously named Blackburn as the best baccalaureate college in Illinois.
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