Fairfield University receives $500,000 NEH challenge grant for Bellarmine Museum


The National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) has awarded Fairfield University a $500,000 challenge grant for the highly anticipated Bellarmine Museum, expected to open in the fall of 2010. Under the terms of the grant, Fairfield will match the NEH grant four to one within the next four years, making possible a $2.5 million endowment.

Plans for the museum were first announced last June, along with a gift of $2.5 million from Fairfield alumnus and trustee, John Meditz, a member of the Class of 1970 and vice chairman and co-founder of Horizon Asset Management in New York City. The Meditz gift helps support the renovation and installation of the museum within Bellarmine Hall, Fairfield's signature building. The NEH challenge grant will help provide an endowment for the operation of the museum.

Rev. Jeffrey von Arx, S.J., university president, said the NEH challenge grant is a key component in Fairfield being able to bring the museum to completion and sustain future programming. "We are very grateful that the National Endowment for the Humanities is supporting Fairfield's vision to enhance the teaching of the humanities at Fairfield while sharing important works of art with our students, faculty and staff, alumni, and the larger community."

Fairfield University benefits from a nearly 500-year-old tradition of Jesuit education steeped in the liberal arts, he said. "Fairfield's commitment to the humanities is evident in the prominence of the arts in the core curriculum, the strength of the academic offerings in the visual arts, and a renewed focus on visual literacy through direct contact with works of art on campus."

The NEH challenge grant will help endow five principal objectives: 1) a full-time position of museum director; 2) faculty and staff development workshops on integrating the visual arts across the curriculum; 3) a lecture series to be held in conjunction with the programming of museum activities and the art history curriculum; 4) the planning associated with seeking and installing temporary exhibitions and loans; and 5) the development and maintenance of a web site for ongoing outreach and curricular initiatives.

From the start, the Bellarmine Museum has been envisioned as a "laboratory for learning," said Dr. Jill Deupi, interim director for the museum. Her goal is to have the museum reach out to all sectors of the university, the neighboring communities and beyond. "I envision a class from one of Fairfield's schools in the museum's galleries while school children from Bridgeport and the surrounding communities examine objects first-hand in the adjacent 'smart' classroom," she said. "We want to afford a broad range of constituencies the opportunity to study and enjoy the museum's holdings in a setting that is both inspired and inspiring."

Deupi said the galleries in the Bellarmine Museum will provide a compelling backdrop for the objects intended for display there. These include approximately two dozen Celtic and Medieval objects on loan from the Cloisters, a branch of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, together with the university's collection of paintings by minor masters from the Renaissance and Baroque periods in Italy. The latter were gifted to Fairfield University in 2004 by Bridgeport's Discovery Museum, which chose to deaccession the Samuel H. Kress "Gift to America" collection.

Other highlights to be found in the Bellarmine Museum will include a collection of non-western art as well as several plaster casts of significant Greco-Roman antiquities, including the Parthenon. These casts, many of which originated at the Metropolitan Museum of Art's historic cast collection, will also be displayed in the entry or "cast" corridor.

Fairfield University has until July 31, 2013 to raise the grant-matching $2 million dollars for the endowment. Donors interested in supporting this important community resource should contact Geri Derbyshire, director of major gifts, at gderbyshire@mail.fairfield.edu or (203) 254-4000 ext. 3486.

The Charles and Mabel P. Jost Foundation was the first to step forward and support the endowment of the Bellarmine Museum with a $125,000 grant to be paid over a five-year period. The museum director's office will be named in honor of the foundation, which places a particular emphasis on enhancing the arts within the community and supporting educational institutions.

Fairfield University is presently home to the Thomas J. Walsh Art Gallery, which resides in the Regina A. Quick Center for the Arts and presents largely modern and contemporary exhibits. Also on campus is the Lukacs Gallery, located in Loyola Hall and dedicated to the installation of student work.

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

Posted on April 9, 2009

Vol. 41, No. 288