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"Making visible the creative process"

The Center for Visual Arts (CVA) at Clemson University is where students, visitors and scholars explore contemporary perspectives in art and culture through research, outreach programming and studio practice. With a mission to engage and render visible the creative process, the CVA is a dynamic intellectual and physical environment where art is created, exhibited and interpreted. It educates through academic research and practice with art at its core, drawing upon varied disciplines to examine critically cultural issues and artistic concerns. The CVA engages the public through a variety of means and venues:

  • Exhibitions in the Lee and Acorn Galleries on the Clemson University campus, as well as and other exhibition spaces both on and off the campus
  • Workshops and lectures by visiting artists and critics
  • Collaborative partnerships with other campus and non-profit partners such as:
    • Clemson Area Transit and the ARTS Center in Clemson to host Passport to the Arts, a gathering that celebrates the arts in Clemson at multiple venues in the city
    • South Carolina Arts Commission to host The State Art Collection: Contemporary Conversations, a traveling exhibition including 118 pieces of artwork from the South Carolina Arts Commission's 448-piece State Art Collection.

Please learn more about belonging to the Friends of the Center for Visual Arts.

The History of Visual Arts at Clemson University 

The importance for the arts at Clemson goes back to Thomas Green Clemson’s vision of having a “high seminary of learning” with his will clearly requiring that art remain, quite literally, at the center of the campus in Fort Hill. As an accomplished painter, an avid art collector, and an eloquent arts advocate, Clemson addressed the Washington Art Association in 1859, proclaiming “The beautiful arts [are] the magic bonds which unites all ages and nations.”

Fast forward to 1958 when Lee Hall was built to house design and architecture students. Shortly after, the first visual arts faculty was hired and the Lee Gallery was created. However, it wasn’t until 1973 when Clemson granted its first Master of Fine Arts degree in Art to Jeanet Dreskin. A long-time Greenville resident, Dreskin is significant to Clemson visual arts not only because she was our first arts graduate, but because of her many accomplishments. Throughout her on-going, 70-year career as an artist, she has had work shown in The White House, and is represented in permanent collections throughout Europe and the US including the Smithsonian’s American Art Museum. We just celebrated the 40th anniversary of our MFA program on campus with a stunning exhibition of Dreskin’s work.

In the late 80’s our first BFA’s graduated, and a few years later President Deno Curris had the foresight to create the Art Partnership out of the Office of the President. This initiative laid the foundation for a public art program on campus.

In the late 90’s President Barker continued a vision to shape the arts at Clemson by creating the Friends of the Lee Gallery, which became Friends of the Center for Arts, funding the Lee Gallery out of the Office of the President with a matched gift. In early 2000, the CVA board was created and Trustee, Patti McAbee took a leadership position on the board.

In July 2006, Board of Trustees approved a proposal for a new Center for Visual Arts building, and, shortly afterwards, plans for a Center for Visual Arts building were on the list of Clemson University’s top five building priorities. In the following years, funds were raised through the CVA Celebration event. All of these dollars were spent on laying the groundwork for development of the CVA as a stand-alone world-class facility. The CVA stands poised and ready to make this building a reality. 

In January 2013 the Board of Trustees approved the space for the CVA-Greenville as one of the four Greenville hubs. With the help of Dean Rick Goodstein, Rob Porter and Dan Harding, we secured a $100,000 grant from the Community Foundation of Greenville that serves to pay the salary for one staff person, for programming within this space. The facility in the Village of West Greenville was a generous temporary agreement. Through an agreement with the Clemson MBA Program the CVA-Greenville moved to the ONE Building on Main Street in October 2015 once the lease on the building in the Village had ended. The new agreement also allowed the CVA-G an opportunity to hold artist talks, workshops and receptions related to the current and future exhibits in the building.

The CVA serves as the umbrella for all visual art activities at Clemson University. Although there is not a physical building for this center as of yet the majority of activities for the CVA are generated out of the Lee Hall building located on the main campus of Clemson University.