Institutional News

Bennington College Receives Gift of 77 Works of Art

Large gift to Art for Access will enhance teaching and support scholarships.

Image of Bruce Berman

Bennington alum, former trustee, and noted photography collector Bruce Berman ’74 and his wife Lea Russo have donated 77 works of art, mostly notable American photography, to benefit Bennington College’s innovative Art for Access program. 

“Lea and I are thrilled to make this gift to Bennington College, one of my alma maters,” said Berman. 

The gift includes photographs by Graciela Iturbide, Mary Ellen Marks, Guillermo Srodek-Hart, Mike Smith, Joel Sternfeld, in addition to some 30 photographs by Chilean-born writer, photographer, documentarian, and MacArthur Fellow Camilo José Vergara. 

Berman retired as chairperson and chief executive officer of Village Roadshow Pictures Entertainment in Los Angeles in 2021. Throughout his career, he oversaw more than a hundred movies, including the Ocean’s Eleven franchise, the Matrix franchise, Mad Max: Fury Road, and the Clint Eastwood films Mystic River, American Sniper, Gran Torino, Sully, and Joker. Prior to his 24 years at the helm of Village Roadshow, Berman was President of Worldwide Production at Warner Bros. Pictures.

Berman became interested in photography in high school when he won the Eastman Kodak Scholastic magazine portfolio scholarship as a senior in high school. He considered becoming a fine art photographer himself while a student at Bennington, California Institute of the Arts, and University of California, Los Angeles. Berman began collecting photography at an early age, and says that collecting allows him to support photographers and perpetuate that dream for others. 

“I continue to be inspired by Bennington’s commitment to nurturing creativity in all forms,” said Berman. “I am delighted that Bennington students—those here today and in the future—will benefit from our gift.”

Throughout his time as a collector, Berman acquired pieces that resonated with him. Born and raised in New York City, Berman especially appreciates the photography that captures American landscapes and life, rural and urban. 

Berman has long been committed to sharing his amassed collection; he previously donated more than 500 works from his collection to The J. Paul Getty Museum. The donation to Bennington was made as a meaningful way to downsize the couple’s extensive photography collection before a move from Los Angeles to the Boston area. 

“We are thrilled to accept this donation, which will make a dramatic impact to our collection and scholarship offerings,” said Mary Bucksbaum Scanlan ’91, Bennington trustee and co-chair of the Art for Access Committee. “Bruce and Lea’s gift helps advance the dual mission of this special program.”

Art for Access, an innovative philanthropic initiative, celebrates the College’s pioneering legacy in the visual arts while engaging Bennington’s network of collectors, artists, alumni, parents, and friends. The initiative expands and enhances Bennington’s art holdings for teaching, enrichment, and enjoyment and raises funds for scholarships through the sale of art. Art sales fund scholarships and advance the College’s commitment to equity, diversity, and access.

Since the launch of Art for Access in 2018, the College has received more than 700 works of art as gifts and has generated $4.2 million through sales of select works of art to fund Art for Access scholarships.

“We are so grateful to Bruce and Lea for this generous gift and for their continued support of Bennington,” said Bennington College President Laura Walker. “This exciting collection will provide meaningful teaching opportunities and expand educational access for future students.”  

In addition to being used for teaching across the disciplines, photographs donated by Berman and Russo will be displayed throughout campus, including in the College’s Admissions Office, for students, staff, faculty, prospective students, and their families to enjoy.