Ann McKeel Ross and her husband Jay have been long-time supporters of USF’s world-renowned art research atelier.
Ann McKeel Ross and her husband, Jay, have been big supporters of USF and its Graphicstudio. Photo: Aimee Blodgett | USF News
By Brandi Hollis
TAMPA, Fla. (May 8, 2013) – Jay and Ann McKeel Ross were newlyweds when they settled into their new home, far from their Kentucky roots but just a short jog from a dusty field that would eventually become home to the University of South Florida. The year was 1957.
Ann McKeel Ross would be a part of USF’s inaugural class, beginning in 1960.
“I was considerably older than all the students,” Ross recalled, “but they were grand to me, absolutely grand.”
Ross and her husband still live in the home near USF and have continued their close ties to the university ever since.
In 1968 the Rosses, who have a love for art, helped found Graphicstudio, along with other art supporters and a grant from the Florida Arts Council. A print and sculpture studio, Graphicstudio has grown into a premier university-based atelier that draws artists from around the world to collaborate on innovative and experimental art techniques, and to work with students and other artists.
The studio has hosted notable artists including Robert Rauschenberg, James Rosenquist, Robert Mapplethrope, Jim Dine and Christian Marclay.
The Rosses have continued their support of the studio throughout the years through scholarship awards, hosting dinners, organizing fundraisers and creating support groups when needed. The couple, who have some of the art created at Graphicstudio displayed in their home, have a passion to give back to the community.
Ross recalls that for awhile the artist’s workshop kept outgrowing its place on campus and had to be relocated. It moved from the fine arts building, to an unused building on the campus golf course, and even rented space off campus for awhile until finally reaching its current location off USF’s Spectrum Drive in the university technology building. Now, the studio is part of USF’s Institute for Research in Art, along with USF’s Contemporary Art Museum, in the College of The Arts.
“I think the work at Graphicstudio is probably as fine as you can find any place in the country,” said Ann McKeel Ross. “It is exciting. They bring in established artists, they bring in emerging artists. Just seeing that kind of art there, it’s just a wonderful place to have in your community.”
Students also benefit from having the resource on campus, Ross said.
“Their minds are challenged to do the cutting edge so to speak,” she said. “I think it’s fantastic. I loved being a student there myself.”
Ross continues to be involved with USF on a number of fronts. She is a part of the Founders Society, the President’s Council, Town and Gown, and CADRE, a community school of art and art history support group.
Ross is modest about her role in supporting the arts at USF saying, “I am just very happy that Graphicstudio has continued on since 1968.”