“Art is the soul of inspiration, culture, history and education.  It is a vital part of society, and needs protection from the financial pressures of a recession.”
-Rachel Jones
, artist & student

In the spring of 2009, in the aftermath of the economic crisis, the administration at Brandeis University in Massachusetts decided to deacession, or sell-off, some of its world-class collection of Pop art that was housed in its university art museum, the Rose Art Museum, to make up for major budgetary shortfalls. The ensuing scandal brought the fragility and vulnerability of university art museums and galleries throughout the nation into sharp focus. That event was the original inspiration for the design of this course and website which was taught in the spring of 2011 at Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond. The class, which was conceived as a collaborative study on university art museums specifically in Virginia, had two aims: first, to increase the profile of university art museums and galleries everywhere by raising awareness about the significance and importance of their missions and collections to their local, national, and international audiences; and second, to create a general resource center. The larger ambition, however, was to present the project as a kind of model that could be repeated across the country and beyond, to make a complete directory, a sort of illustrated catalogue raisonné of these institutions across America, and eventually, the world.

            Because, although it may come as a surprise, there are university art museums and galleries almost everywhere. That said, there are more of them, in more places, in America, than anywhere else which makes them, arguably, an American phenomenon. And yet they are woefully understudied, overlooked, and under-celebrated. Our website seeks to change all that.

            The painting we chose for the background of our website is Trovador from 1945, by Mexican artist Rufino Tomayo (1890-1991). It was formerly part of the collection of the Maier Museum at Randolph College in Lynchburg, Virginia but it was misappropriated from the museum, along with three other paintings, by the college’s administration and sold to a private collector by Christie’s Fine Art Auctions for 7.2 million dollars in May 2008. All four paintings should be returned to the Maier Museum post-haste.


Victoria H.F. Scott & Class

University Art Museums & Galleries in Virginia

Richmond, Virginia Spring 2011