Sixty Years of Student-Acquired Contemporary Art at Wake Forest University

January 19 – March 31, 2024
Charlotte and Philip Hanes Art Gallery

This year Wake Forest celebrates the 60th anniversary of the University’s one-of-a-kind student-led art buying program. Beginning in 1963, students under the direction of faculty advisors have traveled to New York City every four years to purchase contemporary art for the Mark H. Reece Collection of Student-Acquired Contemporary Art. This revered tradition has empowered three generations of students to amass a premier collection of contemporary art. As progressive and radical as it was in 1963, the students’ charge has remained consistent over six decades and 16 art-buying trips: to purchase artworks that reflect the times. Of the Times at Hanes Gallery features highlights from each decade and select artworks from each buying trip.

For group tours, contact Wake Forest University Acquavella Curator of Collections Jennifer Finkel at finkelj@wfu.edu.

In 1963, Wake Forest’s Dean of Men and College Union Adviser Mark Reece had a vision for a student art buying trip. At the time, there was no art department at Wake Forest. He and then faculty members Ed Wilson and Allen Easley and two students drove to New York City, explored the contemporary art galleries there, and came back with a dozen works of art, selected by the students, for the University.

Every four years since then, with the exception of the pandemic year, a small group of students has traveled to New York City, with University funds, to purchase art for Wake Forest’s Student Union Art Collection – works that reflect the times.

In the fall of 2023, Wake Forest will celebrate the 60th anniversary of our University’s one-of-a-kind student art-buying trip. This revered tradition has empowered three generations of students to amass a premier collection of contemporary art of national note. 

In honor of this historic milestone, John (’81, P ‘09 P’14) and Libby Reece, (P ‘09 P’14,) have endowed a conservation fund to care for, steward and rename the Student Union Collection of Contemporary Art as the Mark H. Reece Collection of Student-Acquired Contemporary Art in honor of John Reece’s father – the founder of the collection.

This gift offers a challenge to others who value the collection to help build a $1M conservation fund to ensure this incredible collection’s accessibility to the campus and community, expand its potential as an interdisciplinary learning asset, and elevate the arts for all students no matter their field of study.

Read more about renaming the Collection

Get involved

Thank you for your support. Contact Beth McAlhany at mcalhabd@wfu.edu to learn more about how you can support the collection.

Read more about Mark H. Reece’s legacy:

Why are you excited to come back to campus to celebrate the Reece Collection?

We’d love to hear your recollections of the Reece Collection and your experiences of the Art Buying program. You can share a favorite memory, how the Collection and/or art buying experience influenced your life—the mic is yours. Feel free to give a shoutout to fellow Buying Trip alumni and encourage them to participate!

Questions or ideas? Please reach out to Jennifer Finkel at finkelj@wfu.edu

Join the Celebration

1969: Reflection & Reimagination

Celebrating 60 years of the Mark H. Reece Collection of Student-Acquired Contemporary Art

Jan. 29 – June 30, 2023
Wake Forest Historical Museum

The exhibition 1969: Reflection & Reimagination: Celebrating 60 years of the Mark H. Reece Collection of Student-Acquired Contemporary Art features artwork from the 1969 student art-buying trip, and was curated by J. D. Wilson (’69, P ’01), Lucy Owens (’23) and Lucy Chapman (’23).

There’s always energy and activity around Wake the Arts, with new events happening every week:

Recent Acquisitions

An extraordinary time called for an extraordinary response, and despite restrictions posed by the pandemic, the 2021 student committee delivered. Major goals for new acquisitions included 1) acquiring the best quality artwork with the funds available, and 2) acquiring work that reflects current trends in the art world during that student group’s generation or four-year period, prioritizing the diversity of artists in the collection.

Learn More About Recent Acquisitions

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Get Involved

Excited about the celebration? Find out how you can get involved as we celebrate this extraordinary program, fund the conservation of our historic collection, and reconnect with alumni from the buying trips. Contact Beth McAlhany to join the effort.

Let us hear your stories! We would love to share your memories and reflections as part of our celebration. How did the art and the experience change your life?

Meet the Steering Committee

Alumni and supporters have stepped up to guide this historic celebration and effort. They welcome your outreach.


  • J. D. Wilson ‘69, P ‘01, Creative Center of North Carolina, Inc.
  • Cristin Tierney ‘93, Owner, Cristin Tierney Gallery, NYC

Committee Members:

  • Kayla Amador ’19, Interim Assistant Gallery Director, Hanes Gallery
  • Jessica Burlingame, Collections Manager, Office of University Art Collections
  • Mary Leigh Cherry ’97, Director of Enterprise, ARTERNAL
  • Sarah Comegno ’21, Gallery Associate, Cristin Tierney Gallery, NYC
  • Jay Curley, Associate Professor, Modern and Contemporary Art, Art Department
  • Cathy Dishner P ’21, Advisor and Adventure Travel Expert
  • Jacqueline Dishner ’21, Pre-Sale Admin, Contemporary Art Department at Sotheby’s
  • Jennifer Finkel, Acquavella Curator of Collections, Office of University Art Collections
  • Laura Giovanelli, Associate Dean for Learning Spaces, Associate Teaching Professor, Department of English
  • Margi Gristina ’90, P ’23, Senior Specialist, Head of Sales at Christie’s
  • Leigh Ann Hallberg, Teaching Professor, Art Department
  • Hayes Henderson, Assistant Vice President, Creative Communication, Advancement
  • Beth McAlhany, Sr. Director of Development, College Initiatives
  • Bowen Miller ’87, P ’14, P ’17, P ’18, P ’21
  • James Morrill ’05, CFO, David Zwirner
  • John Reece ’81, P’09, ’14, Managing Partner, Commercial Realty Advisors, LLC
  • Christina Soriano, Associate Provost for the Arts and Interdisciplinary Initiatives, Associate Professor of Dance, Department of Theatre & Dance
  • Meaghan Steele ’11, Vice President, Sales Director, Luxury Division, US at Sotheby’s
  • Catherine Woodard ’80, P ’13, Journalist and Poet

Selections from the Mark H. Reece Collection of Student Acquired Contemporary Art

Click on an image to learn more.

Portrait of Eddie #2
Elaine de Kooning
Jasper Johns
Vincent with Open Mouth 1970
Alex Katz
Night Zag III
Louise Nevelson
Famous Last Words: The Death of a Poet 1988
Robert Colescott
Untitled (from the Empty Clothing Series) 1991
Whitfield Lovell

Untitled 1992
Glenn Ligon
Memento (Hearing is Believing) 2008
Christian Marclay
Havai (Hawaii) 2003
Beatriz Milhazes
Marjan (Masses) from The Book of Kings series 2012
Shirin Neshat

Image Credits:
De Kooning: Copyright retained by artist or artist’s representative.
Johns: Art © Jasper Johns & ULAE /Licensed by VAGA, New York, NY

Katz: Art © Alex Katz /Licensed by VAGA, New York, NY
Nevelson: © 2005 Estate of Louise Nevelson/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

Colescott: Copyright retained by ARS.
Lovell: © Whitfield Lovell, Courtesy DC Moore Gallery, NYC
Ligon: Copyright retained by artist or artist’s representative.
Marclay: © Christian Marclay

Milhazes: © Beatriz Milhazes and Durham Press.
Neshat: Copyright retained by artist or artist’s representative.