The Gallery in the News

A Message to the Community 

Jim Richard Wilson, director emeritus of the Opalka Gallery, died early Sunday morning in the Hospice Inn at St. Peter’s Hospital in Albany. Jim was able to visit his beloved second home in Maine one last time, but his health took a turn for the worse, and he and his wife, Celia Murray, returned to the Capital Region and St. Peter’s last week. Several members of the Sage community were able to visit Jim at the hospice and say good-bye.

We are working with Celia to finalize a date, likely in September, for a memorial event to be held at the Opalka. I will keep you informed as plans grow more firm.

Jim served Sage for more than 20 years, first as director of the Rathbone Gallery at Sage College of Albany, then as founding director of the Opalka Gallery. Thanks to the generosity of the Opalka family, Jim was able to realize his dream of overseeing the design and building of a world class art gallery at the Sage College of Albany.  With support from Karen and Chet Opalka, Jim created a gallery of international prominence that regularly hosted exhibits that drew not only large crowds but scholars from both the United States and Europe. Students at the College benefitted immensely from their exposure to the quality of work that Jim, through a wide range of contacts in the art world, was able to bring to the community.

Waging a courageous battle against cancer, Jim saw the gallery through its 10th Anniversary in 2012, and in turn was honored by the purchase – to which a number of you contributed – of the marvelous John Van Alstine sculpture that now resides permanently outside the gallery. That he was able to follow the Van Alstine show with an exhibition of work by the major artists Faith Ringgold and Aminah Brenda Lynn Robinson is a testimony to the regard in which he was held by artists, gallery directors and museum curators.

Some of you might not know that Jim was a widely respected artist in his own right, and that his work has appeared in more than 100 exhibitions nationwide, including over a dozen solo and small group shows. His work is in numerous collections including The State University at Stony Brook, PepsiCo, International Specialties Inc., Mariposa Luminosa, and ArtPool, Budapest.Most recently, his work in pastels was shown at the Clement Art Gallery in Troy, as part of a 14-artist show titled "Dust to Dust: Artists in Pastel" and noted in the publication “Fine Art Today.”

It is difficult to overstate the impact Jim had on generations of Sage students and faculty, the local, regional and national art scenes, and upon his many, many friends at the College. When Jim passed the gallery keys to our new director, Elizabeth Greenberg this past fall, he did so with the understanding that he would remain a presence to provide guidance, solace and wonderful conversation. As he mentored so many, Jim supported Elizabeth during her first year as the Director of the Opalka Gallery.  In conjunction with his retirement, Jim established the Opalka Gallery Fund at Sage to support future exhibits and the running of the Gallery.

A full obituary for Jim may be found by following this link to the McNulty Funeral Home website.

Jim’s constant presence at the Opalka Gallery and at many Sage events was evidence of his strong support for all of us.  He will be greatly missed.

Susan Scrimshaw, President 

» Times Union article on Jim Richard Wilson