Alumni News, Institutional News

Bennington College Receives Donation of 500 Works of Contemporary Art

Photos on wall

Bennington College has received a gift of some 500 works of art to benefit Art for Access, an innovative fundraising program launched in 2018.

Art for Access celebrates the College’s pioneering legacy in the visual arts by pursuing dual goals: to expand and enhance Bennington’s art holdings for teaching, enrichment, and enjoyment and to raise funds for scholarships through the sale of art, advancing the College’s commitment to equity, diversity, and access. 

The gifted works -- including prints, photographs, paintings, drawings, sculpture -- are from the collection of noted art patron and curator Melva Bucksbaum (1933-2015). In assembling her private collection, Mrs. Bucksbaum was a risk-taking collector who focused on the artist, not art-world trends, and supported artists through her philanthropic work as well as studio acquisitions. She served as a trustee of the Whitney Museum of American Art and on many other boards including the International Council of the Museum of Modern Art, the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, The Drawing Center, and the International Council of the Tate, London. 

The artworks were donated by Mary Bucksbaum Scanlan, Melva Bucksbaum’s daughter. Mary, an alumna from the class of 1991, serves on the Bennington College board of trustees and is co-chair of the Art for Access Committee. Mary previously donated 120 works of art from her mother’s collection to the College in 2019. 

“We are so grateful to Mary for this generous gift and for her enduring support of Bennington,” said President Laura Walker. “This exciting collection will both expand our opportunities for teaching the visual arts and will provide new opportunities for future students.”  

“My mother believed that art was part of our shared cultural heritage and collected what she loved -- works by emerging or local artists, as well as work by artists of great renown. I am so happy that her collection will benefit both today’s Bennington students and future generations of students. I know she would be too.” said Mary Bucksbaum Scanlan ’91.

“We are thrilled to accept this special donation from Mary of the remaining works in her mother’s incredible art collection,” said Paige Bartels, who directs the Art for Access initiative and serves as senior advisor to the president. “Because of the sheer number of works Mary has gifted, we are able to advance simultaneously the dual mission of Art for Access -- significantly expanding the works of art that enrich our community while also immediately generating funds for scholarships. Her gift will have a lasting impact on the campus.”

The gift includes works by emerging and established artists from across the globe, including John Bankston, William Copley, Enrique Martínez Celaya, Douglas Gordon, Sabine Hornig, Virginia Lavado, Rosa Loy, Raul Martinez, Tracy Moffat, Aurie Ramirez, and Sandra Vásquez de la Horra, among many others. Approximately half of the works donated will be used both for teaching (Usdan Gallery curator and director Anne Thompson is teaching from some of the works in her Spring 2021 multiples class) and enrichment of the campus and the community (some 100 works are being placed in buildings throughout campus). 

Through a partnership with Stair in Hudson, NY, a leading regional auction house in the Northeast, some 250 works from this donation will be sold in a single-sale auction on Wednesday, June 2, 2021 to benefit Art for Access. “We are excited to partner with Bennington College for such an important effort and with the collection of such an influential collector,” said Lisa Thomas, director of the fine art department at Stair. 

Included in the sale are works by well-known, emerging, and mid-career artists in a myriad of styles, media, and price-points. Highlights in the sale include works by Cleve Gray, Donald Sultan, Justine Kurland, Stylianos Schicho, Ellen Phelan, Paul Pfeiffer, Harding Meyer, David Salle, Elena Figurina, Holly Coulis, Scott Covert, and Eric Fischl. All proceeds from the auction will fund Art for Access scholarships. For more information on the sale, visit A Contemporary Vision: Works from the Melva Bucksbaum Collection.  


About Art for Access

Launched in Fall 2018, Art for Access is an innovative philanthropic initiative that celebrates the College’s pioneering legacy in the visual arts while advancing its commitment to equity, diversity, and access. Art for Access seeks to engage Bennington’s network of collectors, artists, alumni, parents, and friends by inviting donations of art to the College to benefit students by:

  • Developing and expanding the works of art in the College’s holdings, ensuring that works available for study are ever changing; and 
  • Generating scholarship funds, through the sale of select works on a regular basis, to further the College’s commitment to access, equity, and diversity.

Since the launch of Art for Access, the College has received gifts of more than 620 works of art (including this gift of some 500 works) and raised nearly $3.7 million through art sales to fund Art for Access scholarships.