More than 25 years ago, in the fall of 1984, Sweet Briar College renovated the 1906 former Refectory (now known as the Anne Gary Pannell Center) to house the school's art collection and art library, to provide an exhibition hall, and to provide offices and classrooms for the art history department. Pannell Gallery also functions as a venue for lectures, classes and other educational programs and public events. Art acquisitions and art collection-related programs and activities are supported in part by the College's Friends of Art.
This main gallery is supplemented by two satellite galleries, one located in the lobby of Benedict Hall and one adjacent to the theater and dance studios in Babcock Fine Arts Center. Babcock Gallery is used as a venue for temporary exhibitions featuring recent work by mid-career practicing professional artists, generally from the Mid-Atlantic region, in a variety of media. Benedict Gallery features a variety of community-based exhibitions, for example the work of gifted children from Amherst County schools, displays showcasing historic documents or artifacts, or the work of local artists. Both Babcock and Benedict galleries also serve as spaces for talks and social events and Babcock Gallery is occasionally used as a teaching and performance space by theater and dance faculty.
The regular study of original works of art is an invaluable component of a liberal arts education. The Sweet Briar College Art Collection and Galleries enrich the curriculum by providing an ongoing opportunity for students and professors to examine and research significant paintings, prints, drawings, photographs, sculptures and other works of fine art.
The Sweet Briar College Art Collection and Galleries support the academic curriculum and the cultural life of the College by providing, for teaching and study purposes, a permanent collection of original works of art and by the presentation of exhibitions drawn from the permanent collection or loaned works. Primarily serving Sweet Briar students and professors, the permanent collection, associated exhibitions and related programs also support the College's outreach to alumnae, prospective students, peer institutions and the general public, and provide service to the broader regional and educational community. They maintain as their core purposes: 1) the support of classroom and experiential learning and the stimulation of research in a variety of humanities disciplines; 2) the inspiration of creative work across all the arts; and 3) the cultivation of an appreciation for and understanding of the visual arts within the scope of a liberal arts education.
The Sweet Briar College Art Collection and Galleries maintain institutional memberships in the Association of Academic Museums and Galleries, the Virginia Association of Museums and the American Alliance of Museums.