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Fairfield University Art Museum establishes fund to diversify its permanent collection

Roberto Visani's "Cardboard Slave Kit, Abolitionist Blend DIY," is one of the Fairfield University Art Museum's newest acquisitions.
Fairfield University Art Museum
Roberto Visani's "Cardboard Slave Kit, Abolitionist Blend DIY," is one of the Fairfield University Art Museum's newest acquisitions.

The Fairfield University Art Museum has announced its two newest acquisitions. The works were purchased using money from a new fund that aims to add the work of contemporary Black artists to the museum’s collection.

Nearly all of the 2,000 pieces of art in the Fairfield University Art Museum were donated. Works by white, male artists dominate the collection.

Carey Weber, executive director of the museum and an expert in modern American art, said the 2020 murder of George Floyd by white police officers in Minneapolis was a wake-up call.

“I sat down with the staff, and we looked at our collection, and we looked at our exhibitions,” said Weber. “We knew that we could do better diversifying the collection. Doing more exhibitions featuring Black artists and including Black artists in our exhibition program were two of the priorities we set for ourselves.”

With seed money from the university, the art museum established the Black Art Fund to purchase new works by Black artists. Late last month, the museum announced its first two acquisitions: a ceramic work by Afro-Latino artist Roberto Lugo, and a work by Roberto Visani called Cardboard Slave Kit, Abolitionist Blend DIY. The 7-foot cardboard sculpture was inspired by the iconic anti-slavery medallion, “Am I not a man and a brother?” The university owns one of the medallions.

“We were just so pleased to have this synergy with a piece that is already in our collection. We leapt at the opportunity to buy that, so it’s really, I think a wonderful object for a teaching museum,” said Weber.

Visani's sculpure was inspired by Josiah Wedgewood's iconic abolitionist seal "Am I not a Man and a Brother?"
Fairfield University Art Museum
Visani's sculpture was inspired by Josiah Wedgwood's iconic abolitionist seal, "Am I not a man and a brother?"

The Fairfield University Art Museum is asking the public for financial contributions to the Black Art Fund as well as donations of museum-quality works by Black artists.

An exhibition of ceramics by Roberto Lugo is on view at the art museum, or it can be viewed online at https://www.fairfield.edu/museum/robertolugo/.

Ray Hardman is Connecticut Public’s Arts and Culture Reporter. He is the host of CPTV’s Emmy-nominated original series Where Art Thou? Listeners to Connecticut Public Radio may know Ray as the local voice of Morning Edition, and later of All Things Considered.

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