As befits one of the most educated states in the country per capita, Connecticut hosts a lot of universities. And each of those universities seems to have an impressive art collection. And the Fairfield University Art Museum (FUAM) is without question one of them.
The Fairfield University Art Museum (FUAM) is a hidden gem on the university’s campus on the lower level of Bellarmine Hall.
The hall is a work of art in and of itself. And inside, you’ll find a permanent collection of paintings, sculptures, and photographs. Many of the works are by both European and American artists.
And yet, Western art isn’t the only draw here. African masks, pre-Columbian vessels, and sculptures from Southeast Asia are also on display.
Two spaces make up the museum:
- Bellarmine Hall Galleries, with permanent exhibitions focused on more traditional art
- The Walsh Gallery focuses more on contemporary and larger special exhibitions.
Read on to learn more and plan a visit.
History of the Fairfield University Art Museum
The Fairfield University Art Museum is on the renovated lower level of Bellarmine Hall. This former private home was designed in 1921 in the English manor style. The hall was formerly known as Hearthstone Hall for its many fireplaces and chimneys. This forty-four-room mansion was built by Walter B. Lashar, owner of the American Chain and Cable Company. The Jesuits purchased Bellarmine Hall and the surrounding estate from the town of Fairfield in 1942. The grounds became the foundation for Fairfield University.
The museum opened as the Bellarmine Museum of Art in October 2010. The university spent $3.2 million and hired Centerbrook Architects & Planners to design it. The lead project donor and FU alum named the museum’s main gallery, The Frank and Clara Meditz Gallery, in honor of his parents.
Bellarmine Hall Galleries
Bellarmine Hall has a diverse collection of paintings, sculptures, decorative art objects, and works on paper. The extensive collection includes:
- Ten paintings from the Italian Renaissance and Baroque periods
- A large selection of historic plaster casts after canonical works from ancient Greece and Rome
- A range of non-Western art objects
- And twenty objects from the Celtic, late antiquity, medieval, and Renaissance periods
Bellarmine Hall hosts up to four special exhibitions each year. They enhance the museum’s permanent collection by examining artifacts through various viewpoints.
Fairfield University’s Quick Center for the Arts hosts the Thomas J. Walsh Art Gallery. The Walsh Gallery is a dynamic venue that has provided tens of thousands of visitors with a full complement of programming. Media explored here ranges from the visual, performing, and literary arts. Dr. Philip Eliasoph, Fairfield University Professor of Art History, founded the collection in 1990. The gallery provides visitors from all walks of life with the opportunity to engage directly with original works of art. That said, the gallery has a focus on contemporary art and art-making. As it enters its third decade of existence, the gallery continues to build on its legacy of excellence.
The Meditz Gallery resembles an early Christian basilica in plan. And fitting for its venue, it showcases paintings from the Italian Renaissance and Baroque periods. The entrance hall contains highlights from the collection of plaster casts of works from ancient Rome and Greece. Further galleries house a range of non-Western artifacts, including:
- Pre-Columbian vessels
- 19th-century Southeast Asian sculptures
- And African masks
Special exhibitions have been presented in recent years, including:
- Works by the Art Deco master Hildreth Meiere
- French drawings and paintings from the Horvitz Collection
- Ledger drawings of the Plains Indians
- Images of Manhattan by Adolf Dehn
- A ground-breaking exhibition on hair in the classical world
- And a major international loan exhibition entitled “The Holy Name: Art of the Gesu: Bernini and his Age.”
The museum primarily uses the Walsh Gallery for exhibitions of modern and contemporary art. Recent exhibitions have included;
- Rodin sculpture
- William Kentridge prints
- A Richard Lytle retrospective
- Paintings by Leonardo Cremonini
- Don Gummer drawings and sculptures
- And work by the Guerrilla Girls
In 2017, artist, collector, and master printer James Reed donated over 1200 prints to the Fairfield University Art Museum. The extensive collection is far-reaching, and has transformed the museum. The donation includes:
- Works by some of the preeminent artists of the French 19th century
- Old Master engravings, etchings, and woodcuts by northern European artists
- And German Expressionist woodcuts and lithographs
Newer additions to the collection include American contemporary prints. Artists such as Josef Albers, Jim Dine, Richard Haas, Jasper Johns, and Claes Oldenberg are present in the collection. There are even works by Connecticut artists printed by Reed at his Milestone Graphics studio.
Keep exploring more things to do in Fairfield, CT
Charming Fairfield, CT, has plenty more to do on a CT day trip, both on and off campus.
More art destinations in town include: the Quick Center for the Arts and Fairfield Museum and History Center.
And some more Connecticut museums to explore for fervent art fans nearby include:
- The PT Barnum Museum in Bridgeport
- Housatonic Museum of Art, also in Bridgeport
- Weir Farm National Historic Site in Wilton
- The Bruce Museum in Greenwich
If you’d prefer to explore more of Fairfield, then head to:
- Downtown Fairfield, for local shopping and restaurants
- Or visit one of the beaches, especially Jennings Beach or Lake Mohegan
We hope you enjoy wherever the day takes you!