In the heart of a region that is growing in artistic importance on the world stage—Art Basel Miami Beach 2018, for example, drew more than 80,000 visitors to South Florida—FIU has increasingly caught the interest of collectors and aficionados who wish to find a sustainable audience for their prized possessions. Forward-thinking donors have bequeathed works of art, rare artifacts and whole libraries to the university’s three museums with an understanding that they will be cared for and made available for generations to come.
Steven and Dorothea Green, known for their support of academic programming at the eponymously named Steven J. Green School of International & Public Affairs as well as the FIU Libraries, recently donated art by eighteenth-century French painter Charles-Joseph Natoire to the Patricia and Phillip Frost. (The couple also lend their names to an arts lecture series at the Frost.)
An appreciation of art is critical if one is to understand the world, Dorothea Green explains, and as such goes hand-in-hand with the Greens’ contributions in support of the social sciences. “It’s important that art be accessible to everyone—students, faculty and the community,” she says. “That’s why we donated the Natoire triptych to FIU’s Frost Museum. We wanted everyone to experience it the same way that we have as a family through the years.” Dr. Paul Drucker recently contributed 42 works by award-winning artist Mark Podwal to the Jewish Museum of Florida-FIU on Miami Beach. Displayed earlier this year at the Modesto A. Maidique Campus, the series provided an opportunity for professor of religious studies Oren Stier to teach about Jewish history to a group of high school students representing Interfaith Youth Miami.
The Wolfsonian-FIU once made history as the largest in-kind gift to a Florida university when its founder Mitchell “Mickey” Wolfson Jr. gave the Miami Beach museum’s building and core collection to FIU. That bountiful generosity has since encouraged others to step forward. New York gallery Historical Design, for example, recently contributed an estimated $2.5 million worth of rare books, research materials and a photo collection that together serve the Wolfsonian-FIU’s mission of illustrating modern social, historical and technological transformations.
Susan Gladstone, executive director of the Jewish Museum of Florida-FIU, recognizes that donors have truly made FIU an unparalleled repository of art and culture. “The family of FIU museums offers an opportunity to experience an unprecedented, enormously varied wealth of art, history and architecture not available at any other one university in the area,” she says.
That reality would not be possible without the selflessness of those who have chosen to create a forever legacy by sharing their special finds, carefully chosen pieces and meticulously curated collections with the world. Their largesse ensures that the greater community has a chance to appreciate them, faculty can use them as teaching and research tools, and students can view or work with them either on their own or as part of a formal class.
Longtime art collector Dennis Scholl ’77, a seasoned arts executive and entrepreneur who with his wife has donated more than 80 Australian Aboriginal works to the Frost Art Museum, remembers well his first taste of art as a freshman at FIU. His formative introduction—in what was then the university’s one-room gallery in a small corner of one of the few buildings on campus—has had a lifelong impact both professionally and otherwise.
“That opportunity led me to close to 40 years of really joyful personal experience building a number of art collections,” recalls Scholl, a former attorney who has produced arts documentaries and served on the boards of numerous arts institutions.
As the city of Miami continues to grow as an arts capital, FIU will play an ever larger role in that expansion. And donors will undoubtedly be a big reason why.