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Colonel Myers: The Art of Giving

Colonel Eugene E. Myers, who passed away recently and is sorely missed by the Art and Art Education Program and the Milbank Memorial Library, once said, "I have always been steeped in military science, in history and music, art, aesthetics and I have done my Ôdarndest' to stay current."

That he did.

Myers co-authored or contributed to three books and published more than 80 articles on art, education and world travels. He served his country and lived his passion for art, learning, and teaching while establishing funding to foster programs and understanding of art in higher education.

In the late 1990s the Colonel selected several institutions to which he would make funding available. The institutions represented places where he studied or with which he had personal tiesÑthe University of North Dakota; Northwestern University; Teachers College (M.A. in Drawing, Painting and Graphics in 1947, instructor from 1938-1940); and the University of West Virginia. The Florence H. and Eugene E. Myers Charitable Unitrust, named in part for his wife, and The Eugene E. Myers Charitable Trust are dedicated to the growth of library art collections and academic programs for the development of art.

In an interview with Judith M. Burton, Professor and Director of the Art and Art Education Program, and Jennifer Govan, Assistant Director, Collections and Support Services at the Milbank Library, the impact of the Myers trusts on art education at Teachers College is plain to see.

"Before we knew anything about Colonel Myers," Burton said, "we were seeking support to preserve and exhibit some of our major collections. However, these projects didn't have great appeal to the grant-giving community. Colonel Myers became our guardian angel who came down the artistic highway and also gave us funding to purchase nearly 800 books covering many areas of the arts, including painting, sculpture, ceramics, design, and architecture, and a wide-ranging document collection. The Colonel believed in keeping the arts alive in the young people of today."

Govan spoke to the importance of the Myers Collection in Milbank. It is, according to her, "dedicated to the strengthening of art resources for TC programs of study and research in art, art education, and arts administration. Thanks to the Colonel, we have built a truly fine collection with a wide variety of beautifully illustrated books, exhibition catalogs, videotapes, CD ROMs, and other resources that may also benefit the larger community of practitioners, researchers, and scholars."

Colonel Myers' support also made possible the preservation and exhibition of two major art collections in the Library's Special Collections, the Arthur Wesley Dow Collection of early twentieth century student art and the Edwin Ziegfeld Collection of international children's art. Arthur Wesley Dow, Professor of Fine Arts at Teachers College from 1904 to 1922, was an influential leader of the educational wing of the Arts and Crafts Movement. His textbook, Composition, presented an approach to principles of design that educated a generation of artists, including, most notably, Georgia O'Keefe.

The exhibition, "The Dow Collection: The Influence of Composition," curated by Burton, featured outstanding examples of the work of Dow's students in the first decades of the twentieth century.

Edwin Ziegfeld was the Chair of the Department of Art and Education in the late 1960s and a faculty member from 1945-1970. He served as president and founder of the International Society for Art Education, a division of the United Nations Education, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). The Ziegfeld Collection of Adolescent Art consists of 361 charming paintings, drawings, prints, and collages made by young people, 10-18 years of age, from 32 countries from around the world.

Selected works from the Ziegfeld Collection were recently exhibited in the Macy Gallery at the College. As with the Dow Collection, Myers provided support for preservation and access to the collection, including the Macy Gallery exhibition and the illustrated catalog, The Ziegfeld Collection: International Artworks of Adolescents from the 1950s: A Celebration, edited by Burton.

Three additional initiatives have been made possible by funding from the Myers Trusts. The first, the Seasons Project, is documentation in photography and writing of the effects of the changing seasons on the Hudson River. The second is the re-launch of a journal called Art Today, which dates back to the 1930s. Third, at planning stage, is a ceramic mural to be created by Instructor Tom Lollar and a group of ceramics students, and installed in the foyer of Whittier Hall. This public mural will be dedicated to the memory of Colonel Myers and his wife.

As the Trust's investment capital continues to grow, the Myers Trust Committee members Jane Franck, Director of the Milbank Memorial Library, and Professor Burton have been working on a five-year plan on how to use the funds for further acquisitions. "The Myers Trusts have the potential to transform the College's holdings on art and art education," said Burton. "It is prudent for us to plan strategically for the funds' use so that Colonel Myers' generosity will have the maximum possible impact on TC and its students."

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