When autocomplete options are available, use up and down arrows to review and enter to select.
Apply Give

Faithful supporters gift art collection to Liberty, provide for gallery expansion

Frederick and Barbara Engstrom

After moving into renovated space this summer, the Liberty University Art Gallery will soon feature an impressive collection of art generously donated by the late Barbara A. Engstrom, who also made the expansion possible.

With 30 of Engstrom’s own paintings in addition to glass and sculpted figures and photography collected from her travels to 99 countries, the Barbara A. Engstrom Gallery will be a permanent exhibit within the newly renamed Liberty University Art Museum. An accomplished artist herself, Engstrom wrote a book, “Faith to See,” that was displayed in the Louvre in Paris and will now be available in Liberty’s museum.

Engstrom passed away in December. It was her wish that the gallery serves as a reminder to guests that the art being displayed is being shown for the glory of God, the ultimate artist. She left detailed layout and specifications for the museum, which will be relocated just down the hall from its former location in Green Hall, central to the School of Communication & the Arts (SCA) and a short walk from classrooms, the Tower Theater, Black Box Theater, and Tilley Student Center.

Frederick and Barbara Engstrom began their contributions to Liberty in 2013 when they supported scholarships for some of the first students in the Liberty University College of Osteopathic Medicine (LUCOM).

Everett Foutz, a senior planned giving officer at Liberty who developed a special relationship with the Engstroms over the years, said they were driven by their faith in every aspect, including their generous giving to the university.

“They were a sweet couple, they had no children, but they loved the Lord and loved helping students, so it was just a matter of God laying on their heart what they wanted to do to help,” Foutz said. “These are not donors, they’re friends to what I like think of as a ministry. They are donors, yes, and it’s their money, yes, but God puts on their hearts what He wants to do for the university, and He has done that with every gift we’ve received.”

A design rendering of the entrance to the Barbara A. Engstrom Gallery

In 2017, after the LUCOM students they were supporting graduated, Foutz connected the couple with Todd Smith, the founder of both Liberty’s Studio and Digital Arts Department and the art gallery. In addition to starting scholarships for five art students, Smith said Barbara Engstrom asked him about the gallery and its purpose. She had originally planned to donate her art to a gallery closer to her home in the Philadelphia area, he said, but the museum declined to display it in the way she wanted: with reminders of the art being evidence of the glory of God. Smith said Barbara was excited to find a place that was already putting God first in the arts.

“I put together an email that dealt with our art department, the Christian worldview, the Christian philosophy, training students for Christ who can impact cultures around the world through the arts, and everything else that we value here at Liberty,” Smith recalled. “She replied with a message full of exclamation points and capital letters praising God for what He has done here. She was thrilled that she had connected with us.”

In addition to providing funds for the museum expansion and gifting the collection, the Engstroms also set up new scholarships for arts students who are asked to create new pieces for God’s glory and display them around the university or in Lynchburg.

Liberty’s art collection and gallery have come a long way since it first began with one art piece in 2009, Smith said, and he attributed the growth to God leading talented artists and collectors to the university.

“Years ago, there was no art gallery, and we started it from nothing,” Smith said. “We would have an exhibit, and because of the space and it felt like only two people could come in at the same time. I prayed and asked God, ‘If we’re going to create this (gallery), even if we have to start small, we’re going to do it and let You do Your will.’”

The years since those initial prayers have led to numerous art donations that Smith and Foutz partnered to bring to Liberty, including a 21-piece collection of paintings by artist Robert Wilson Sr. depicting the life of Christ, which can be found on the walls of the Montview Alumni Ballroom.

“One of the major goals has been to collect the best artwork that can be collected for our permanent collection and then to have a facility to show that, and now that facility is going to be beautiful and in a really great location,” Smith said.

The Barbara A. Engstrom Gallery will take up one-third of the space, leaving the rest of the museum for displaying pieces by students, faculty, and outside artists. The museum will feature glass exterior walls and movable interior walls to allow for staging and the separation of different exhibits within the space. For events like College for a Weekend (CFAW), the museum can also be used for hosting guests who want to learn more about Liberty and SCA.

SCA Dean Scott Hayes said the museum is a perfect way to make use of the space that was intentionally left open for future additions to the school.

“I think it’s the best of all worlds; we get this great new museum that honors the gifts from the Engstroms, and it will have a multipurpose layout that our other art gallery spaces have never had before,” Hayes said.

He noted that the school has plans to accommodate students who use the current space as a lounge and study area, with furniture moved throughout Green Hall.

Construction for the museum will begin next week and is planned to be completed by the end of this summer.

Chat Live Chat Live Request Info Request Info Apply Now Apply Now Visit Liberty Visit Liberty