Institutional News

Art for Access FAQ

A guide to additional information and answers to questions regarding Bennington College's new Art for Access initiative. 

What is the Art for Access initiative?

Art for Access is a new philanthropic effort through which Bennington College will seek gifts of art, in keeping with the College’s long tradition of supporting artists (as teachers and students) on the cutting edge. We do this with two related aims in mind:

  • To further develop and expand the works of art in the College’s teaching collection, while ensuring the works available for study will be regularly refreshed over time; and

  • To support—through the sale of selected art works at regular intervals—one of the College’s highest priorities: providing scholarships for gifted students who otherwise would not be able to afford a Bennington education.

Who will lead the Art for Access committee?

The Art for Access committee will be recruited in Fall 2018, with an aim to have a mix of alumni, parents, friends, faculty and former faculty on the committee. It will be co-chaired by two Bennington College trustees, alumna Mary Bucksbaum Scanlan (class of 1991) and Michael Hecht.

Mary Bucksbaum Scanlan

Mary Scanlan is the co-owner and CEO of Woody Creek Distillery and is also a longtime small business owner in Basalt, CO. At Woody Creek Distillers, Mary oversees architecture, design, retail and tasting room operations, as well as marketing and events. Mary studied photography and art history at Bennington from 1988-1990, then graduated from Drake University with a B.A. in Art History. Mary contributes her time and energy to several nonprofit organizations in the Aspen Valley, as well as serving on the board of directors of the Aspen Country Day School, Aspen Art Museum, Aspen Community Foundation, Aspen Junior Hockey, Whitney Museum of American Art, and the Loomis Chaffee School. She formerly served as chair of the board of the Anderson Ranch Arts Center. She joined the board in 2018.

Michael Hecht

Michael Hecht attended Bronx High School of Science and received his BBA from the City College of New York in 1958. He is a CPA and the president of the certified public accounting firm Hecht and Company, PC. He also serves on the board of the City University of New York’s Graduate Center Foundation and the Helen Frankenthaler Foundation. Additionally, Hecht is an officer and Director of the Nancy Graves Foundation, the Lucille Lortel Foundation, the Al Held Foundation and the Trisha Brown Dance Company, of which he is treasurer. Michael has been a trustee of Bennington College since 1991.

How will the scholarship fund work?

The funds raised by Art for Access will be used to continue and expand our commitment to scholarships. Scholarships will be awarded to the most talented and deserving students, but will not be limited to students who intend to study the visual arts when they arrive, as we believe strongly in allowing students to change their path as they see fit.

Bennington believes that a student’s talent, creativity, and capacity to re-shape the world has no relation to their family’s socioeconomic status. We strive to be as generous with scholarships as we can. Of the current incoming class, 27% are pell-eligible, and two-thirds receive need-based aid. This is especially notable, given that we do not have the endowment that many of our peers have.

Has the College sold art before?

Yes, the College held art auctions (with Sotheby’s) of donated works by alumni, faculty, and friends in the late 1970s and early 80s. It has also auctioned collections that were contributed by alumnae with the express intention to be sold to benefit the College.  

What art does the College own?

Rather than establishing a museum or even adopting the idea of a permanent collection, Bennington has long-held the view that its art holdings would shift, adapt, and be ever changing. Starting as early as the 1960s, Bennington approached collection building creatively, intentionally soliciting gifts of art first to enrich the campus and teaching experience, and then, to be sold at the most opportune time to benefit Bennington financially, with work sold over the years at auctions or privately. Art committees were explicit in their solicitations of works that the gifts of art were to be used to best effect for the College’s educational mission.

Because of its long legacy in the visual arts, the College now has a collection of some 500 paintings, prints, drawings, photographs, ceramics, and sculptures that have been donated over the years. It includes works given by alumni and faculty and others who have been a part of Bennington’s extraordinary creative community, including Helen Frankenthaler, Robert Motherwell, Jules Olitski, Paul Feeley, Kenneth Noland, Anthony Caro, Tony Smith, Larry Poons, and David Smith. The College has also been given important photography portfolios by Ansel Adams, Gary Winogrand, Edward Weston, Brett Weston, Lee Friedlander, and Manuel Alvarez Bravo.

Works are stored in a climate controlled vault in the Crossett Library or VAPA or displayed in classrooms, communal rooms, and offices throughout campus. As visible reminders of the creativity and determination that is so valued at Bennington, art on campus inspires our students to challenge themselves in the classroom and studios.  

How were the works that will be sold chosen?

Each of the paintings was selected based on several criteria: size/scale that makes the work a challenge to display in campus buildings, given that the College does not have a museum; fragile materials that require more rigorous stewardship and limited chance for display; and increasing carrying costs and market value. In the case of Red Square, the Helen Frankenthaler Foundation fully supports the idea of the work being sold in accordance with Helen’s wishes and the spirit of her original gift. Bennington College is working with the Foundation on a program of long-term, rotating loans of works by Frankenthaler to ensure that Helen’s legacy remains visible on the campus. The College also owns other works by Helen Frankenthaler.

Why is this initiative happening now?

Providing access through student scholarships is one of the College’s enduring priorities, and this is an opportune time to turn our attention to the resources we have been holding for this purpose. Some of the works in the collection have appreciated tremendously, and others require special care and storage.

The College raises significant funds for scholarship support each year, and we believe this new philanthropic effort will expand fundraising opportunities and galvanize new donors to support access in this new way. Importantly, it will also bring new visual art assets to enrich the campus, all while celebrating Bennington’s rich visual arts connections and history.

About the Visual Arts at Bennington College
Bennington College has a long and pioneering history in the visual arts. Bennington was the first in the country to put the visual and performing arts at the center of a liberal arts education; since the beginning, the College embraced the idea that art can shape our way of thinking about everything, from aesthetics and philosophy and literature to mathematics and environmental activism and community development.

The College was the site of the first retrospective exhibitions of Jackson Pollock and Robert Motherwell, and is the home to the Suzanne Lemberg Usdan Gallery, a 3,200 square foot flexible space which hosts changing exhibitions in and beyond the campus, and which serves as a hub of expansive, interdisciplinary programming that advances the progressive traditions of the College. The Usdan Gallery is prominently featured in the Helen Frankenthaler ’49 Visual Arts Center, half of Bennington’s 100,000+ square foot creative complex for the visual and performing arts. In addition to the gallery, the visual arts wing houses expansive teaching studios, digital labs, workshops, and seminar spaces, and is open 24 hours a day.

The College continues to innovate to meet the needs of the next generation of artists and cultural leaders, such as with its Museum Fellows Term, a five-month long immersive program operated in partnership with the Helen Frankenthaler Foundation. Through this innovative program, the College offers students a new educational model that blends arts mentorship, coursework, and work experience at New York-based museums, including Bronx Museum of the Arts, the Brooklyn Museum, the Cooper Hewitt Smithsonian Design Museum, the Jewish Museum, the Museum of the Moving Image, the Studio Museum in Harlem, and the Whitney.

Bennington’s distinguished visual arts alumni have shaped the field of the visual arts, from artists to curators to dealers and gallerists. A sampling of notable visual arts  alumni include Helen Frankenthaler ’49, Kathy Halbreich ’71, Sally Mann ’73, Dan Cameron ’79, Holly Block ’80, Matthew Marks ’85, Andrea Fiuczynski ’85, Tom Sachs ’89, Odili Donald Odita MFA ’90, and Anna Gaskell ’92.