History of the Ruth and Elmer Wellin Museum of Art

The Ruth and Elmer Wellin Museum of Art is an interdisciplinary hub on the campus of Hamilton College in Clinton, NY, which invites visitors to discover the arts and form unexpected connections through groundbreaking exhibitions, a globally representative teaching collection, and engaging programming. 


Exterior of the Wellin Museum in the evening                           

The Wellin was founded in 2012. Its 30,537-square-foot building was designed by Machado and Silvetti Associates. Architecturally, the building turns the concept of a museum inside out, revealing the inner workings of the institution and its collection for all to see. Art storage, conservation workshops, administrative offices, and teaching spaces are visible to museum visitors. 

As a teaching museum, the Wellin presents exhibitions that complement Hamilton College’s interdisciplinary and liberal arts curriculum. Hamilton students engage with the museum through a variety of programs and work opportunities as docents and student assistants in education, collections, exhibitions, digital marketing, events, and special projects. Faculty members incorporate the collection and exhibitions into their curriculum in partnership with museum staff. The Wellin is also proud to serve as a resource for the broader community, offering artist lectures, customized tours, educator workshops, student-led gatherings, school trips, and creative events for children and families. The Wellin Museum of Art is free and open to everyone. 


Students visit the permanent collection



The Wellin Museum of Art’s collection includes over 7,000 objects representing a broad range of cultures, historical periods, artistic practices and movements, including Greek and Roman antiquities, Native American vessels and objects of material culture, drawings and watercolors from the Beinecke Collection of the Lesser Antilles, and American, European, and Asian paintings, prints, photographs, drawings, and sculpture. Echoing the interdisciplinary nature of a liberal arts education, the collection continues to grow with an emphasis on works that strengthen its existing holdings and support the academic mission of the college. Click here to browse the collection online.



Artist in Gallery with Students                           


The Wellin Museum of Art presents several rotating exhibitions annually, including group shows and surveys dedicated to a single artist. While the Wellin presents work by artists at various stages in their careers, there is an emphasis on emerging and mid-career artists, supporting the growth and expansion of their artistic practice to develop new work to debut at the Wellin. The museum partners with artists to foster and realize original projects, often in collaboration with Hamilton College students. Alongside spring semester exhibitions, the museum presents WellinWorks, an interactive educational space informed by themes in the corresponding exhibition allowing for further exploration and engagement. Featuring an international roster of exhibiting artists exploring an array of themes, the Wellin often provides the first opportunity for artists to mount solo shows dedicated to their work. Through the Wellin’s outreach efforts, the Hamilton community has the opportunity to engage with the artists through class visits, public events, and studio critiques, among other programs. Original exhibitions curated at the Wellin have traveled to museums throughout the U.S. and Canada. Learn more about our exhibitions here.



The museum has developed a robust publications program for its exhibitions introducing new scholarship to the field through essay contributions by world-renowned curators and scholars. These high-quality publications contribute to a broader dialogue about the exhibitions through documentation and critical writing. The Wellin collaborates with publishers to distribute books internationally, thus expanding the range of the museum’s scholarly efforts. Many of the museum's catalogues are co-published by DelMonico Books/Prestel, a division of Random House. Co-published books include a fully-illustrated publication to accompany Pure Pulp: Contemporary Artists Working in Paper at Dieu Donné; Playground of My Mind, a graphic memoir by Julia Jacquette; and monographs for Yun-Fei Ji: The Intimate Universe, Julia Jacquette: Unrequited and Acts of Play, Jeffrey Gibson: This Is the Day, Elias Sime: Tightrope, Michael Rakowitz: Nimrud, and Sarah Oppenheimer: Sensitive Machine. Browse the full catalogue listing here.



Looking back at the Wellin’s history, a trend emerges: the Museum has seeded success for exhibiting artists, launching them on new trajectories in their careers. In addition, through collaborations with artists, curators, students, faculty, scholars, the community, and the broader contemporary art world, the Wellin has established a new model for a teaching museum. This interactive timeline highlights key moments in the Wellin’s history; for a more comprehensive chronology, see the Wellin’s exhibition history.  Explore the Timeline.