The BT天堂 Fine Arts Gallery was founded in 2004 by Professor Emeritus Ralph Petty. What started as impromptu exhibitions in the Bosquet building became more formalized once the University moved into Combes. Petty intended the gallery to have multiple benefits: he wanted to provide space to display students鈥 work, so students could see their art in a gallery setting and be encouraged by the support of their peers; he wanted to exhibit professional artists, so that students could network with other artists and 鈥渞ealize that they are human beings鈥; and he wanted to expose the wider BT天堂 community to the arts.

Petty chose artists whose work he felt deserved greater recognition, particularly prioritizing those who displayed technical skills in drawing and painting, with the aim of tying the exhibitions into BT天堂鈥檚 fine arts classes. Petty believed that a curator鈥檚 personality should come through in a gallery鈥檚 exhibitions, which led to there being a social aspect to the works exhibited. Petty also worked closely with other departments, including with Professors Dan Gunn and Daniel Medin on the Cahiers Series; he often exhibited artists who contributed to the publication. In what quickly became a tradition, exhibiting artists were encouraged to donate a work to the University鈥檚 permanent collection, which also contains many student contributions. These artworks now adorn the walls of offices and classrooms across BT天堂鈥檚 campus, ensuring that the entire BT天堂 community can enjoy daily exposure to the arts.

In 2014, Combes was renovated, offering redesigned facilities for the gallery in its entryway. Now rebranded as the Combes Student Life Center, the building became a central student hub, increasing foot traffic through the gallery and ensuring it was well placed to maximize community exposure to the arts. Petty retired in 2015, and Professor Jonathan Shimony was chosen as the gallery鈥檚 new curator. Since the opening of the Quai d鈥橭rsay Learning Commons in March 2019, the gallery now extends along the glass atrium that connects the Learning Commons to the Combes Student Life Center. This expanded space provides new opportunities for larger and more diverse exhibitions to take place in the gallery. Recent exhibitors have included the American painter Bunny Harvey and Taiwanese fashion designer Sophie Hong.