‘Sacred Spirits’ Exhibit Celebrates Cultures

May 19, 2023

Eastern Washington University recently celebrated the dedication of an impressive gallery space, along with a collection of sacred spiritual artwork procured from countries throughout the world.

The June 7 dedication of the Dr. Robert H. Secrist Gallery, located on the first floor of the JFK Library, just inside the main entrance, attracted a full-house. Students, faculty, staff and friends of the university collectively celebrated the unique gift, which brings a collection of 3-D sculptures reflecting diverse global cultures to Cheney.

The dedication debuted the “Sacred Spirits” exhibit, a collection of 35 pieces given to the university by Secrist, a longtime teacher of languages and linguistics who traveled extensively while learning about different cultures. This inaugural exhibit is part of a larger collection donated by Secrist that includes hundreds of pieces featuring a stunning array of artist renditions of spiritually symbolic figures from nearly every country in the world.

“While images in a text or on a screen hold value, being able to see these artifacts in real life-viewing everything from fine detail to the impressiveness of true scale- is absolutely priceless,” says Annie Cunningham, a lecturer in painting and art history.

Secrist made a generous gift to establish the Dr. Robert H. Secrist Endowment and name the gallery and create a beautiful display space for interdisciplinary exhibits, which will rotate through the gallery in the years to come.

The retired professor, who resides in Florida, traveled to Cheney for the dedication, and shared some of the background behind this unique collection.

Curated by Secrist, along with Cunningham and Joshua Hobson, these selected works feature deities, mythical figures, and sacred symbols from various cultures. The pieces celebrate universal themes that unite humanity. The gallery exhibit proved collaborative as students contributed artistic renditions of the pieces, along with support for documenting the work.

“The Secrist Gallery is a space where assumptions may be challenged, inspirations fostered, and where the exciting realm of curiosity within education may be ignited,” says Cunningham.