The Escalette Collection recently celebrated its 10+2 year anniversary, a commemoration delayed two years due to the pandemic. Established in 2010 through a generous donation by Phyllis and Ross Escalette, Wilkinson College’s “museum without walls” has grown to include over 830 works displayed in the public spaces throughout campus. This event celebrated this monumental milestone and honored the donors, artists, and students who have shaped the collection’s trajectory.
Fiona Shen, Director of the Escalette Collection, opened the event by acknowledging the late Maggi Owens, the Escalette Collection’s first curator. Owens was truly a visionary, bringing contemporary artwork to Chapman’s Campus through acquisitions and progressive exhibitions in the Guggenheim Gallery. Her passion for art and bold decision-making continue to inspire the Escalette Collection’s work.
“When I think about the time I’ve spent with the Escalette Collection, I can’t help but think about how it’s impacted me. Aside from developing a newfound appreciation and love for art and museum exhibitions, I’ve also found myself to be part of a welcoming community that helped me feel at home at Chapman.” – Yandal Salas (Graphic Design, ‘25).
The Escalette Collection’s ever-growing engagement with students and visibility on campus is something that Suzanne Ellingson, daughter of Phyllis and Ross Escalette, said would have made her parents proud. Her family’s continued support has allowed more diverse and underrepresented artists to be included in the collection.
Provost Norma Buchard remarked that the collection has been seen by hundreds of thousands of students, faculty, staff, and visitors over the past ten years. She also noted that the Escalette Collection serves as a learning laboratory for students, many of whom work or volunteer in the collection before going on to work in museums or other art-related fields.
Associate Dean of Wilkinson College, Stephanie Takaragawa, agreed, describing how the Escalette Collection supports the mission of Wilkinson College and its Engaging the World: Leading the Conversation initiative by providing unique opportunities for learning and engagement for Wilkinson students. One such opportunity is the curation of an Engaging the World (ETW) exhibit each year by the ETW first year foundation course The Escalette Collection: An Experiential Journey.
“As an incoming freshman… I didn’t know what to expect when coming to Chapman. But my first-year foundation class, and the Escalette Collection quickly integrated me into the Chapman community and the opportunities that Chapman has to offer. Every day I walk through campus and am surrounded by beautiful art that inspires me – I feel so immersed in the Chapman community, and I have the Escalette Collection to thank for that.” – Ivanna Tjitra (Graphic Design, ‘25).
Following the speaking program, guests were invited to enjoy various activities and opportunities to support the collection. The student Art Ambassadors offered mini-tours of the Escalette Collection’s outdoor sculptures and Chapman dance students performed choreography curated by Jean Park (Dance and CCI, ‘24) around Levitation of the Enchanted Princess by Tony DeLap. Guests also had the opportunity to help the Escalette Collection match its National Endowment for the Arts grant to commission an artwork by Daniel Canogar that will visually translate Wilkinson College’s Survey of American Fears. Escalette t-shirts, hand-made tote bags (made from recycled exhibition banners), and porcelain hand-painted cups were available for donation. Book artist and letterpress printmaker, Jennifer Graves, was also at the party. She custom designed an Escalette 10+2 Anniversary letterpress print that guests could print on her mobile printing presses.
As the party continued into the night, we were overwhelmed by the love and support the Escalette Collection has received. A monumental anniversary like this allows us to look back at how far we’ve come, but it also encourages us to look toward the future. Surrounded by the students, artists, donors, faculty, and staff that have shaped our collection, we felt inspired thinking about the next ten years.
We invite you to explore all the works in the Escalette Collection by visiting our eMuseum.
Wilkinson College of Arts, Humanities, and Social Sciences is the proud home of the Phyllis and Ross Escalette Permanent Collection of Art. The Escalette Collection exists to inspire critical thinking, foster interdisciplinary discovery, and strengthen bonds with the community. Beyond its role in curating art in public spaces, the Escalette is a learning laboratory that offers diverse opportunities for student and engagement and research, and involvement with the wider community. The collection is free and open to the public to view.