Institutional News

Art for Access: A New Initiative to Fund Scholarships

entrance to commons with gold sculpture

Bennington College is pleased to announce a new initiative, Art for Access, which provides a dynamic model for supporting scholarships by inviting new donations of art to the College, an institution with a long and celebrated reputation in the arts. Through this initiative, Bennington will seek gifts of works of art to be sold to benefit one of the College’s highest priorities: providing scholarships for talented students who otherwise would not be able to afford a Bennington education. Art for Access celebrates the College’s pioneering legacy in the visual arts while advancing its commitment to equity, diversity, and access.

Since the College’s founding, alumni, faculty, and friends have contributed artworks to Bennington for multiple purposes, including for the financial benefit of the College. As a college that has never had an art museum, Bennington acts as a steward of these generous gifts, loaning works to exhibitions, using them as teaching resources, displaying works in campus offices, and auctioning works to benefit the College, all while honoring donor intentions. Art for Access continues this tradition by expanding the resources available to make a Bennington education accessible to as wide a range of students as possible.

Bennington College has partnered with the international auction house Christie’s to conduct the inaugural sale of works to benefit Art for Access this fall. These works include, in order of when they will be offered: La moisson, 1887, by 19th-century French artist Julian Dupré (1851–1910); Red Square, 1959, by American artist and Bennington alumna Helen Frankenthaler (1928–2011); and Arondite, 1963, by American Abstract Expressionist Norman Bluhm (1921–1999); Communards (Comuna de Paris), 1928, by Mexican artist Diego Rivera (1886–1957); and Untitled, 1956, by the French abstract artist and theorist Georges Mathieu (1921–2012). See this separate document for details about these paintings. All of the paintings were donated without restriction for the benefit of the College.

To guide this effort, Bennington is establishing a new Art for Access committee, co-chaired by Bennington College trustees Mary Bucksbaum Scanlan ’91 and Michael Hecht. The committee, comprising faculty, alumni, parents, and friends, will seek gifts of significant works of art from generous donors and supporters of the College to be used as a means of raising funds for scholarships, alongside monetary gifts. These will join similar art holdings that have been given to Bennington over the years with permission to sell them at a future date to support the College.

Dr. Mariko Silver, President of Bennington College, commented: “Bennington College exists to train the next generation of artists, thinkers, world-builders, and culture shapers. We are proud to extend Bennington’s tradition of innovation with the launch of Art for Access. Building on the success of our fundraising, which has doubled our endowment over the past five years, this initiative will allow us to continue to expand access to talented students from all backgrounds who would benefit from a Bennington education. We honor the generosity of the artists, alumni, and friends who support the College’s mission.”

Of the five paintings to be sold, Red Square by Helen Frankenthaler, an important early, large-scale painting, bears the distinction of having been a direct gift to the College from the artist during her lifetime. Frankenthaler was a student at Bennington in the late 1940s, a time she described as “brilliant,” and “inspiring.” She often said that her Bennington years were fundamental to her development as an artist and gave her the foundation to embark on her groundbreaking and innovative oeuvre. A passionate and supportive alumna, she served as a member of the Bennington board of trustees from 1967 to 1982. Frankenthaler donated Red Square to the College after it was exhibited in her first retrospective, at The Jewish Museum, New York in 1960.

Clifford Ross, Chairman of the Helen Frankenthaler Foundation, stated: “The Foundation is pleased that the proceeds from the sale of Frankenthaler’s Red Square will directly fund scholarships for a new generation of Bennington students, and hopes others will join us in supporting Bennington’s inaugural Art for Access initiative. When Helen gifted Red Square to the school, it was a measure of her belief in Bennington’s educational mission and focus on the visual arts–-from which she benefited enormously. Helen looked back on her time at Bennington with joy and maintained a close connection with the college throughout her career. She would be so pleased that her gift has taken on new life in this way.”

Bonnie Brennan, Deputy Chairman, Americas at Christie’s, commented, “We are delighted to be able to support Bennington College in its inaugural fundraising effort for the Art for Access initiative. With our strong track record of philanthropic support for institutions, Christie’s is uniquely positioned to leverage our auction platform, industry partnerships, and global network of collectors to help the College achieve its goals for this exciting and innovative scholarship program.”


Additional information about Art for Access.


About Bennington College  
Bennington College is a liberal arts college in southwestern Vermont that distinguished itself early as a vanguard institution within American higher education. It was the first to include the visual and performing arts in a liberal arts education, and to integrate work in the classroom with work in the field. The College aims to educate students towards self-fulfillment and constructive social purposes in an increasingly complex global society. Bennington believes that equity, diversity, and inclusivity—in community and in curriculum—are vital to achieving those aims. Bennington’s distinguished visual arts alumni have shaped the field in every way, as artists, curators, dealers, critics, and gallerists. Some of its notable alumni include Helen Frankenthaler ’49, Kathy Halbreich ’71, Sally Mann ’73, Dan Cameron ’79, Holly Block ’80, Carrie Moyer ’82, Matthew Marks ’85, Andrea Fiuczynski ’85, Tom Sachs ’89, Odili Donald Odita MFA ’90, and Anna Gaskell ’92.

About Christie’s  
Christie’s, the world's leading art business, had global auction, private and digital sales in the first half of 2018 that totalled £2.97 billion / $4.04 billion. Christie’s is a name and place that speaks of extraordinary art, unparalleled service and international expertise. Christie’s offers around 350 auctions annually in over 80 categories, including all areas of fine and decorative arts, jewellery, photographs, collectibles, wine, and more. Prices range from $200 to over $100 million. Christie's also has a long and successful history conducting private sales for its clients in all categories, with emphasis on Post-War & Contemporary, Impressionist & Modern, Old Masters and Jewellery.

Alongside regular sales online, Christie’s has a global presence in 46 countries, with 10 salerooms around the world, in London, New York, Paris, Geneva, Milan, Amsterdam, Dubai, Zürich, Hong Kong, and Shanghai.