The Catherine G. Murphy Gallery exists as an integral part of the education of all St. Catherine University students. It supports the founding principles of the University by underscoring women’s contributions to art and exploring themes of social justice, activism and aesthetics.
The Catherine G. Murphy Gallery is an extension of the University’s mission to integrate the liberal arts and education. The gallery provides both the campus community and the public with access to art exhibitions, programming and the University's Fine Art Collection, all of which seek to maintain a powerful women-centered presence in the local and regional arts communities. By showcasing contemporary as well as historical artwork by all genders, The Catherine G. Murphy Gallery emphasizes the visual arts as a method for illuminating and exploring global and emerging societal issues grounded in women’s perspectives.
Catherine G. Murphy, St. Catherine alumna and benefactor of the University’s Catherine G. Murphy Gallery, is responsible for a meaningful cultural legacy for the college and the entire Twin Cities community. Catherine G. Murphy attended the College of St. Catherine in the late 1920s, studying French and art and earning an Associate of Arts degree. Murphy worked for 25 years for the St. Paul Board of Realtors before retiring in 1961, and regularly served as Class of 1930 representative. In 1978, Murphy’s aunt, whom she had taken care of for several years, remembered Murphy in her will with a large sum of money. In a 1979 interview with St. Catherine staff, Murphy explained why she made such a generous commitment to the institution. "I'm very proud of the fact that I went to a good private school – When I decided to make a donation to the college, I told Rita [Gillach Otte '49, former director of planned giving] and Peter [Lupori, professor emeritus of art], 'Instead of the usual scholarship contribution, I prefer to do something for the art department.' The college came up with a plan to endow the galleries, which sounded perfect."
With Otte's help, Murphy created a charitable remainder unitrust in 1979, designating the art gallery as the beneficiary. She also committed to providing $10,000 in annual support of the gallery. That same year, the gallery was named in her honor at a gala celebration. Since then, Murphy’s original gift of $500,000 in appreciated stocks has grown to an endowment of over $1 million, the interest from which will provide ongoing support for the gallery. "Catherine’s initial endowment commitment and her annual support provided leverage to build the gallery into the much sought-after exhibition space that it is today," explains Gallery Director Kathleen M. Daniels ’73. Each spring, the gallery hosts a juried exhibition of all senior art majors. These exhibitions were always a favorite of Murphy, because, as she commented in 1979, "I like to see how the students’ perception of art has changed."