Fairfield University announces plans for a new art museum on campus


Fairfield University will build a new art museum on campus in Bellarmine Hall, thanks in large part to a generous $2.5 million donation from trustee and alumnus John Meditz, Class of 1970. The announcement is being made this evening at a dinner in New York honoring Meditz.

An exciting component of the new museum is a partnership that has been forged between the University and the Metropolitan Museum of Art (MMA) which will loan the new Bellarmine Museum a representative teaching collection of Medieval art. The works of art derive primarily from the Cloisters Collection at the MMA, a specialized collection of medieval art that is the most important of its sort in the United States.

Also included in the museum will be Fairfield University's own art collection, acquired through generous donations and bequests by various patrons of the University. Among these works are 10 Renaissance and Baroque paintings from the Samuel H. Kress Collection, presented to Fairfield in 2003, and a selection of the University's important collection of plaster casts.

In making the announcement, Jeffrey von Arx, S.J., university president, said, "John has been a longtime and loyal supporter of Fairfield. His selfless generosity has had a profound impact on countless lives. He truly reflects the Jesuit teaching of "being men and women for others."

Meditz, the Vice Chairman of Horizon Asset Management, Inc. in New York City, was recently singled out as the "Outstanding Philanthropist of the Year" by the New Jersey Chapter of the Association of Fundraising Professionals. He currently serves as First Vice President/Treasurer of the Palisades Medical Center Board of Governors in North Bergen, N.J., and has served on many committees for the hospital. He helped establish the Palisades Medical Center Foundation in 1999 and was Chairman of the Center's 30th Anniversary Campaign. He is a Trustee and Treasurer of the Weehawken Public Library, a Board Member of the Weehawken High School Scholarship Committee, Chairman of the Weehawken Planning Board, and a Trustee of Xavier High School.

In commenting on the Bellarmine Museum project, Meditz said, "To the extent the Bellarmine Museum will augment the greater goal of more fully integrating life and learning on campus, I believe it represents a great milestone for Fairfield. I can't wait to be there on opening day."

The Bellarmine Museum Project grows out of a multi-year initiative to enhance the teaching of art history and the humanities at Fairfield. It will also complement the largely modern and contemporary art gallery on campus, the Thomas J. Walsh Art Gallery, located in the Regina A. Quick Center for the Arts.

Dr. Jesús Escobar, chair of the Department of Visual and Performing Arts, worked with the curators at the MMA to arrange the loan of Medieval art. He credited his fellow faculty members, working in tandem with university administrators, with bringing this project to fruition.

"This is a true collaborative effort that unites the academic mission of the university with the larger goal of enhancing our students' experience of art and the humanities on campus," he said.

The creation of the Bellarmine Museum signifies the central role art history plays in the teaching of the humanities at Fairfield. It also advances the University's strategic goal of integrating the curriculum within the context of its Jesuit, Catholic mission, which includes sharing with the wider community its resources and expertise. In that vein, there are plans to make the museum available as a resource for community colleges, high schools and middle schools as well as area residents for the study and enjoyment of art.

When completed, the museum will have four principal galleries, in addition to an office for a director, a seminar classroom and space for storage. The central gallery, which will be named by Mr. Meditz, will focus on Medieval and Renaissance art. It will have two adjacent gallery spaces, one to display plaster cast copies of renowned works of Ancient Greek and Roman sculpture, and the second reserved for the university's outstanding collection of Non-Western art from Asia, Africa and the Americas. A corridor gallery will showcase other works of art in Fairfield's permanent collection.

The space being used for the museum is located in the lower level of Bellarmine Hall, the signature building on campus, steeped in a rich history of American architectural tradition. The gallery will resemble a basilica, with existing nooks and archways allowing for creative art installations.

The museum is expected to be completed by Spring, 2009.

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Media Contact: Nancy Habetz, (203) 254-4000, ext. 2647, nhabetz@fairfield.edu

Posted on June 5, 2008

Vol. 40, No. 276