Allen S. Weller

Allen Weller
1907–97
Inducted in 2021

Allen S. Weller was a national leader, a populist, a scholar, and a skilled administrator whose influence on the college and the arts more broadly at Illinois is without equal in the university's history. An art historian by training, Weller chaired the Art Department from 1948 to 1954, served as dean of the College of Fine and Applied Arts from 1954 to 1971, and led Krannert Art Museum as director for its first three years after its founding in 1961. A Chicago native who grew up visiting the studio of sculptor Lorado Taft, Weller would go on to a successful career as a scholar of Taft and others, publishing five books and over a hundred articles. After wartime service to the Army Air Force that included support for the cataloguing and return of stolen artwork, Weller began his Illinois career in 1947, and after only one year he assumed the role of chair of the art history program.

In addition to steering what would become the School of Art and Design into national prominence, Weller was also the driving force behind the founding of Krannert Art Museum, partnering with Herman and Ellnora Krannert to plan and imagine the building and its initial collection. Of equal and lasting significance was Weller's stewardship of the college's Festival of Contemporary Arts, which ran biennially from 1948 to 1974. For years one of the nation's only juried invitational opportunities for modern art, the festival and accompanying exhibition led to early acquisitions of work by leading artists that would form the distinctive foundation of Krannert Art Museum's permanent collection. With commissioned festival performances drawing from leading national composers and playwrights, Weller also helped build the clear case for a new performing arts center on campus. The vision for Krannert Center for the Performing Arts took shape during Weller's deanship, when the college also added the Department of Theatre and the Department of Dance.