RICHMOND, VA.-Jack and Mary Ann Frable of Richmond have made a generous gift to the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts to complete the match of a grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation to endow the museum's curatorial chair in ancient art, VMFA Director Alex Nyerges has announced.
"We knew we could truly make a difference not only in the strength of VMFA's ancient art department, but also in the community, because generations of school children have been especially drawn to ancient art for its beauty, mystery and human focus," the two benefactors said in a statement.
"The objects tell stories, represent myth, and feature struggles and accomplishments that resonate within us all. Through art, children and scholars alike can draw connections between their world and the ancient world, while posing new questions about the human condition."
The couple have been donors to VMFA since 1984. Mary Ann Frable was a member of the VMFA board of directors from 2000 to 2006. The Frables have been members of the museum's Fabergé Society since 1992, and he is now co-chairman of the group. Jack Frable is a member of VMFA's major gifts committee and is also a former member of the Collectors' Circle.
The Mellon challenge grant of $1.25 million was announced in 2005. One million dollars from the grant was designated to endow the ancient art chair, and $250,000 has been used to support the position while matching endowment funds were raised.
VMFA's ancient collection is the largest and strongest public collection of its kind between Baltimore and Atlanta and includes more than 1,400 objects ranging in date from 3500 B.C. to A.D. 700.
Representation is particularly strong in Mediterranean holdings, which include Egyptian, Near Eastern, Aegean, Greek, Etruscan, Roman and Byzantine objects. Long regarded as distinguished and comparable to the holdings in the Toledo Museum of Art, the Detroit Institute of Arts, the Art Institute of Chicago, and the Walters Art Museum, VMFA's ancient collection serves as a unique resource in the mid-Atlantic region and Southeast Coast corridor.
Dr. Peter Schertz, who formerly worked at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, was hired last year as the second curator of ancient art in VMFA's history and will be the museum's first Jack and Mary Ann Frable Curator of Ancient Art.
Since his arrival he has been planning for an expansion of the ancient collection and for the collection's reinstallation in a significantly larger space that will overlook the main atrium once the museum's expansion project is completed in 2009. He is also forming a departmental support group, the Friends of Ancient Art. Members will assist in strengthening the collections and explore their own interests in ancient art and culture through lectures and travel.
"We are delighted and grateful that Jack and Mary Ann Frable have been so generous with their time and support over the years," says Nyerges. "With their backing, we now have a sixth endowed chair in our curatorial division, guaranteeing that the museum will be able to focus its curatorial efforts in these areas on scholarship and collecting, interpreting, and showing a wide variety of art for all Virginians."
The Frables' philanthropy has also extended to the Virginia Opera, the Richmond Symphony, the American Society of Cytopathology, the MCV Foundation, Artspace, the Jack and Mary Ann Frable Medical Student Scholar Program at Northwestern University, and the Virginia Home for Boys and Girls.