The fine art exhibition program at USD traces its origins back to the 1980s,
when Professor Therese Truitt Whitcomb began organizing installations with the help of her students in a converted classroom space near the front entrance to Founders Hall. Over the course of the next 25 years, more than 100 exhibitions were mounted in Founders Gallery as a result of Professor Whitcomb’s, and her successors’ initiative. Founders Gallery was expanded, professionalized and re-named the Hoehn Family Galleries in 2002, thanks to a generous gift from Robert and Karen Hoehn, long-time supporters of the Arts at USD.
In 1995, the University of San Diego received a generous gift of American Indian artifacts from the family of David W. May, a former USD student. With that gift the May Collection was established, first in Founders Hall and later in Serra Hall where it became a valued resource for Anthropology students. Professor Alana Cordy-Collins has stewarded the May Collection since its arrival on campus. Annual exhibitions have been mounted in the May Galleries since 1996.
Twin galleries were envisioned for opening of the Joan Kroc School of Peace and Justice in 2003 and a variety of fine art projects have been installed in those spaces since. In 2012, Derrick Cartwright was appointed Director of the University Galleries, a new position at USD. He was charged with building upon the already strong reputation of the separate gallery spaces, and with coordinating the highest quality art and anthropology programs for the campus community.