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A Patron of TC Art

Funding from foundations established by alumnus Colonel Eugene Myers has had a tangible influence on the College's art scene.

If you page through some of the exhibition catalogues and other publications produced by the Art and Art Education Program at Teachers College, you’re likely to come across the following acknowledgement: “This publication has been made possible through the generous support of the Florence H. and Eugene E. Myers Charitable Remainder Unitrust.”

It would be easy to overlook the acknowledgement tucked amid the glossy photos and lithographs. What isn’t so easy to overlook, however, is the influence of the late Colonel Eugene E. Myers (M.A. ’47) and his wife, Florence, on TC’s art scene over the last decade.

The trust funds created by Col. Myers in the 1990s (and since renamed the Myers Foundations) have funded an array of art education publications, exhibitions, and other initiatives at both TC’s Macy Gallery and the Gottesman Libraries.

“The funding has had a major influence at TC,” said Judith Burton, Director of the Art and Art Education Program. “It’s allowed us to improve the quality of Macy Gallery and it has allowed us to offer a very sophisticated presentation of the work we do here through our galleries. It has also had a major impact on the kinds of art we can promote, particularly because we now have state-of-the-art digital projection which enables us to do all sorts of exciting and innovative work. And, perhaps most significantly, it has allowed us to bring a litany of diverse and prestigious speakers from all parts of the world to Teachers College.”

Colonel Myers was a decorated war veteran, museum administrator and philanthropist. During World War II, he served in the Pacific and was later appointed chief of protocol and chief of the Air Force Presentation Support Division based at the Pentagon. He received his master’s degree from TC in drawing, painting and graphics in 1947, and was an instructor at the College from 1940 to 1941.

He retired from the Air Force as a colonel in 1966, and became dean of the Corcoran School of Art in Washington, D.C., and later vice president for management of the Corcoran Gallery of Art. In 1974, he married Florence Hutchinson.

In 1997, Myers established the trusts to support art in higher education and selected TC, as well as other institutions he had attended, to receive funding. Today, the foundations support a wide range of projects and facilities around the country, including the Col. Eugene Myers Gallery at the University of North Dakota.

At TC, the support has made possible the preservation of five major art collections in the Gottesman Libraries, including one by Edwin Ziegfeld that numbers more than 300 paintings, drawings, prints, and collages made by young people from 32 countries. Ziegfeld was a TC faculty member from 1945 to 1970 and was founder of the International Society for Art Education, a division of UNESCO. Myers was a student of Ziegfeld’s during his years at TC.

Brian Hughes, Associate Director of the Gottesman Libraries, said funding has also allowed the library to create a digital art residency program, which brings artists to TC to conduct research and create artworks. The digital art developed by the artists is exhibited at the library. Last year, the library hosted three artists, and Hughes said plans are to bring another cohort to the College this summer.

“The residency program has allowed us to do something that adds to Macy Gallery’s program,” Hughes said. “Because of the library’s mission to work with new technologies, and thanks to the Myers funding, we’ve been able to better explore digital art.”

The money also supports gallery space in the library and production of outreach materials related to the various installations and exhibitions. In addition, the library, Hughes said, is planning to use some of the funding to commission art. Plans are in the works to have an artist create artwork focused on community building as part of orientation for new students in the fall.

“We really try to make good use of that funding,” Hughes said. “We’re able to able to do a lot of good things with art in terms of collecting and exhibiting works that we wouldn’t be able to do otherwise.”

The funding also has helped the Art and Art Education Program publish a number of monographs, exhibition catalogues and other publications. Burton said the first publication funded by the Myers Foundations was an illustrated volume, The Ziegfeld Collection: International Artworks of Adolescents from the 1950s. In more recent years, Burton has established the “Practices of Investigation” series, which focuses on pedagogy, art and research. To date, the series has produced nine books and monographs.

Burton also established the Myers Lecture series that brings four or five artists or scholars to speak at TC, often in conjunction with TC’s annual Conversations Across Cultures series. “That has provided a tremendous resource to go outside of our expertise and bring here for lectures and workshops people who can add richness to our teaching,” Burton said. “It’s allowed us to be responsive to people and ideas in art and art education.”

To honor Florence and Eugene Myers, the Art and Art Education Program commissioned eminent artist and TC ceramics instructor Tom Lollar to create a mural. The mural, which is composed of a set of ceramic tiles, was completed in 2004 and adorns the foyer in Whittier Hall.

“Colonel Myers was very pro-Teachers College and was very proud of having been here,” said Burton, who met with him on several occasions before his death. “And he was very proud of the quality of the work we did and the seriousness with which we used the money. I think he would be very pleased to see what the funding has allowed us to accomplish.” 

Published Monday, Apr. 13, 2009