This past Thursday, School of Art Dean Robert Storr announced the establishment of the Robert Reed ’60 ART ’62 Scholarship Fund and the naming of a Green Hall classroom in the late professor’s honor.
Storr shared the news during the closing reception of Reed’s retrospective, “Non-Stop Paintings,” which has been on display in the School of Art’s Green Hall gallery since Nov. 12. The eponymous fund will support graduate students in the School of Art, said Jonathan Rohner, the School’s manager of finance and administration. The classroom, G-01, will bear a plaque designed by graphic design students in the School of Art’s master’s program, visibly dedicating the space — in which Reed taught “Basic Drawing” for much of his nearly 50-year tenure at the School — to his memory. Lisa Kereszi ART ’00, the School of Art’s director of undergraduate studies, said she thinks the establishment of the scholarship fund and the dedication of G-01 to Reed are particularly important considering the ongoing campus dialogue around racial issues.
“The School of Art [is] a place on campus where we try to both respect one another and our differences, while expressing all sorts of difficult things and issues freely and without censure,” Kereszi noted. “[Reed’s] place in history, including Yale history, is now cemented, quite literally, in place.”
Samuel Messer ART ’81, associate dean of the School of Art, said the initiative to found a scholarship fund began last December. He explained that a former student, who wishes to remain anonymous, approached Storr after hearing of Reed’s declining health, to suggest creating a fund in Reed’s name. The student made an initial donation that allowed the scholarship to be established prior to Reed’s passing in late December.
Messer added that he thought it was especially moving to establish a scholarship in Reed’s honor, given that Reed came to Yale with most of his tuition paid by the state of Virginia because, according to Messer, the state did not want to integrate a black man into its university system.
“Storr told Reed three days before he passed away that this was happening,” Messer said. “Besides the scholarship, [Storr] told Reed that he would make an exhibition and catalogue [of Reed’s works], and name G-01 after him.”
Messer described the influence Reed had on students in his “Basic Drawing” class during his decades teaching in G-01.
Gabriela Bucay ’17, a student who took both “Basic Drawing” and “Introduction to Painting” with Reed, said that the professor frequently shared his conviction that he thought “Basic Drawing” should be made an undergraduate requirement. Reflective of this sentiment, Messer noted that many of Reed’s students were not studio art majors, and have gone on to work in other fields, becoming “lawyers, doctors and scientists” who nevertheless share a particular set of values Reed imparted to all of his students, such as the importance of “hard-core looking” and critical thinking.
“The way he ran his class influenced people not only to teach them how to draw but to realize that the making of artwork involved as much critical thinking as any other class here at Yale,” Messer said.
Bucay said she views the decision to establish a scholarship fund and dedicate a classroom to Reed as a fitting tribute to a professor who placed such heavy emphasis on work ethic.
“There’s a legacy [Reed] left which I think he would have preferred to be channeled toward a way of approaching the work,” Bucay explained. “So rather than make a monument or a memorial, it seems fitting, with his work ethic, to name a space of work and learning after him and to dedicate it in his honor, to keep alive the spirit he brought to the work and the space and continue his legacy that way.”