JCC’s first art exhibitions were presented in the Fine Arts Center’s “gallery upstairs,” in the old East Side Elementary School on Falconer Street. The temporary site included large windows with cold winter drafts and creaky floors. A historical report describes the 1970 preparations: “armed with moveable panels, a box of tools, hors d'oeuvres, and a few bottles of champagne, professors John Hiester and William Disbro installed the first show and prepared for the reception.” From these humble beginnings, the faculty, student, and local artist shows continued to develop and draw community interest.
The initial successes and growing enthusiasm sparked the addition of a permanent Forum Gallery in JCC’s new Forum building (now the Katharine Jackson Carnahan Center). After several years, Mike Campbell, a newly hired faculty member, was appointed gallery coordinator. Under his guidance, the gallery facilities were upgraded several times, presented traveling shows, and exhibited prominent professors from regional colleges. Highlights included the “Citizen’s Eye,” a countywide, juried photography show; and the “Eastern Lake Erie Regional Scholastic Art Awards,” an exhibition that drew hundreds of high school students and audiences from across Western New York and Pennsylvania. After expanding the quality of exhibitions and outreach services, Mike Campbell accepted a position at Shippensburg University, Shippensburg, Pennsylvania.
In 1988, William Waite, director of the Chautauqua Art Association Galleries, was hired. He utilized his Chautauqua experiences and contacts to add refinements such as the brown bag lecture series and the “Printmakers U.S.A” exhibition. Waite added shows by distinguished regional professors such as Bill Stewart and Joseph Piccillo. JCC professor John Heister curated a cutting-edge digital photography show (the first in Western NY) that traveled to CEPA Gallery, Buffalo, NY.
In July 1989, Dan R. Talley was hired as the first full-time director and Waite continued in his part-time capacity for a few years. The inaugural exhibition, “Aging: The Process, the Perception” brought regional and national attention. Cable News Network (CNN) aired a segment on the exhibition during the Early Prime and Headline News shows, and WNED–TV the PBS affiliate in Buffalo produced a spot in their Art Scene series. As part of the exhibition, Ed Asner, star of TV’s Lou Grant show gave a talk on art and censorship.
Other highlights included the annual “PhotoNominal” exhibitions, a juried photography show that drew artists from across the nation; “A Friend Remembers Louise Nevelson,” an exhibition of works collected by Diana MacKown; and “Theaters and Collages,” featuring works by Cletus Johnson, a regional artist who was represented by the Leo Castelli Gallery in New York City (one of the most important contemporary galleries in the world). Impressive catalogs presented artist’s statements, representations of their artworks, and biographies. In 1995, the JCC Foundation’s Capital Campaign funded a new state-of-the-art Forum Gallery (now the Weeks Gallery). After making significant visionary changes to gallery programming and facilities, Dan Talley left for a new position at Kutztown University of Pennsylvania.
James Colby was appointed director in 1997 and was charged with utilizing the new Community Cultural Center space and implementing the new multi-faceted vision. A 2001 program presented an ideal model that combined global perspectives, interdisciplinary studies, and community outreach. Alison Wright, a recipient of the Dorothea Lange award for documentary photography, was the featured artist. She specialized in documenting the traditions of endangered people in remote areas of the world and was the author and photographer of a recently published book “The Spirit of Tibet: Portrait of a Culture in Exile” (also the title of the Weeks Gallery exhibition).
To add an authentic cultural experience, Monks from the Drepung Loseling Monastery in Atlanta, Georgia presented several programs. The activities drew record crowds who were intrigued by the Eastern philosophies, brilliant costumes, exotic instruments, and multi-phonic singing. Over four thousand guests, including several busloads of high school students, traveled from across the region.
Other Weeks Gallery highlights included the founding of the Museum Without Walls and Global Collection of Photography programs that present ArtReach services. Recently, the gallery has packed or sold-out ArtParty events, received an NEA grant, and acquired photographs from the Andy Warhol Photographic Legacy Program. Through these newly evolved programs, services, and acquisitions, the Weeks Gallery enriches cultural lives by presenting significant visual, performing, and interdisciplinary art programs for the region, and continues to be recognized for excellence, innovation, and service in the region, state, and nation.
The Weeks Gallery continues to evolve, seeks greater excellence, and expands services. The Weeks Gallery staff opened the new Center Gallery on the JCC Cattaraugus County Campus. Colin Shaffer, Art Administrator, coordinates these new exhibition events in collaboration with the Cattaraugus County Arts Council.
The gallery Programs continue to build significant collaborations with the following: Scandinavian Folk Festival, Jamestown Public Schools, Arts Council for Chautauqua County, Cattaraugus County Arts Council, Infinity Visual and Performing Arts Center, Jamestown Renaissance Corporation, and LakeArts Film festival.
The Center Gallery presents local artists and faculty from regional colleges. Highlights include the “CCAC Members Show” and the “Southern Tier Biennial” (STB), a regional survey of contemporary art on the southern tier.
In 2011, the Weeks Gallery received two significant donations – Ken and Lois Strickler donated Andy Warhol’s Marilyn Monroe serigraph and Larry Diggs donated a small-untitled bronze by Louise Nevelson.