Smith gets $2.5 million for art curator

  • Smith alum and art collector Charlotte Feng Ford has given the school $2.5 million to endow a fund to support a new full-time position for a contemporary art curator. photo courtesy of Smith College

For the Gazette
Published: 6/17/2016 4:47:06 AM

NORTHAMPTON — Smith College announced this week that it has received a $2.5 million donation from noted art collector Charlotte Feng Ford, an alumna in the class of 1983.

The money will be used to create an endowment to fund a new position, a full-time curator for contemporary art in Ford’s name aimed at fostering new interest in the field for students and faculty.

“It’s been a real joy for me,” said Ford, adding that she is “very happy to be making this donation.”

Ford, who has been immersed in the art world since graduating from Smith, has worked for Ralph Lauren women’s apparel, has been on the board for a number of art galas, and also helps to run a summer program for disadvantaged youth.

She described her time at Smith as “such a wonderful experience,” and said that the college’s recent fundraising campaign has allowed her to give back and “combine my philanthropy with my love of collecting.”

Ford said the endowment’s focus on contemporary art is an attempt to get the school’s museum more up to date.

Contemporary art, which focuses on “living artists,” is more “relevant to college students who are learning and growing and contemplating their future.”

According to a press release issued Monday by Smith, this is the second curatorship to be established in 18 months at the Smith College Museum of Art. The first was filled by Yao Wu, an expert in East Asian art who was hired in September 2015.

Museum director Jessica Nicholl said it has been trying to expand its staff of specialists to tend to its collection of over 25,000 works.

“Having a specialist seemed important and timely,” she said.

According to numerous online rankings, Smith’s art museum is already among the best in the nation, placing as high as 11th out of 50 in a CollegeRank.net assessment that called it “a hidden gem.”

Nicholl added that the museum has “unusual depth” for a college of Smith’s size, proclaiming it “one of the finest academic museums in the country.”

Nicholl said she expects that the new curator will help build a new program of residencies for contemporary artists, in addition to collecting contemporary works from around the world and developing relationships with artists. The curator will not teach classes, but will collaborate with students and faculty to make the museum’s resources accessible to the campus.

Nicholl will head the search committee for the new position, and will begin by developing a job description this summer.


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