The quaint town of Fredericksburg, Virginia, hides a small treasure trove of art. Two galleries house the collection, the Ridderhof Martin Gallery and the DuPont Gallery. On their website, the University proclaims that their mission is “dedicated to advancing the educational goals of the University through the collection, preservation, exhibition, and interpretation of works of art in accordance with the highest professional museum standards.” As with many University Art Museums, their objective is to merge art with the academics, while also serving the community surrounding them. The galleries usually hold smaller pieces of artworks, and the senior exhibitions each spring for their graduates as well. However, hours in which the gallery is actually open could leave something to be desired, as their hours consist of Monday, Wednesday, and Friday from 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m., and Saturday and Sunday from 1:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m. The school holds common lecture series during the school years, and seasonally changing exhibitions. The collection has had a patchy history regarding its collection; there have been many series of years where the collection did not accept any permanent artwork, and decades where there were no special exhibitions at all, and prominent situations where many of their artworks were stored in broom closets and attics. Now in a happier period, where their galleries are more financially stable and art is better period, we can only wish that this golden age continues.
Both galleries exhibit different types of art. The DuPont gallery (named for the DuPont Hall, which houses the university’s fine arts building) usually features a range of art, including painting, drawing, sculpture, photography, ceramics, and textiles. All of the art shown there is created by the school's art faculty and students, and other contemporary artists. The Ridderhof Martin Gallery (named for the prominent California artist who funded the space itself, and then donated hundreds of pieces of her artwork to the university) was created for a more worldly perspective on art. Its host’s exhibitions brought in from museum collections all over the country, or show works from their permanent collection of over 5,000 works. The collection is strongest in Asian art and mid-twentieth century art. An indicator that the gallery itself is starting to grow in prestige, from October 21st through December 2nd the Ridderhof Martin Gallery held an exhibition showing some of the masterpieces of world art from the Virginia Museum of Fine Art, a leader in realms of worldly fine art. Although Fredericksburg and indeed the University of Mary Washington may be a small place, it’s still true that often good things come in small packages.