A Modern Partnership

UMD, Phillips Collection Join Forces to Increase Collaboration in the Arts and Humanities
By Lauren Brown | photos courtesy of The Phillips Collection

A new partnership between the University of Maryland and the nation’s first museum of modern art seeks to significantly expand artistic innovation and scholarship at both institutions.

The Phillips Collection in Washington, D.C., and UMD will together develop new courses and programming, create research and internship opportunities, co-host events and expand access to one of the world’s most distinguished collections of impressionist, modern and contemporary art.

“This remarkable partnership fulfills a longtime dream for this campus,” UMD President Wallace Loh says. “Not only does it provide access to this priceless collection, but it brings a new vigor to our arts education, and to the entire campus. We are genuinely a STEAM university—science, technology, engineering, arts, math.”

Dorothy Kosinski, director of the Phillips Collection, says the partnership enhances the original vision of founder Duncan Phillips, who imagined an “intimate museum combined with an experiment station.”

“As we look toward the museum’s 100th anniversary in 2021, we intend to redefine its role within the cultural community locally and globally,” she says. “Together with the University of Maryland, we can reach new audiences, disrupt conventional thinking and inspire new heights of achievement and impact.”

The 4,000-piece collection specializes in American and European masters including Renoir, Rothko, O’Keeffe, van Gogh and Gauguin, but much of it remains in storage. A highlight of the partnership—a gallery and education and storage facility to be built in Prince George’s County—will make it available to a broader audience and encourage experimentation in the arts.

Meanwhile, UMD expands its presence in the nation’s capital and has a new place and platform for conversations and collaborations in the arts and humanities.

“This is something we’re certainly already doing on campus, but now it will be on a larger scale and will attract more people with an interest in learning about and nurturing and supporting these collaborations—it gives them another way in which to engage,” says Bonnie Thornton Dill, dean of the College of Arts and Humanities.

The museum’s Center for the Study of Modern Art has been renamed the University of Maryland Center for Art and Knowledge at the Phillips Collection, remaining committed to interdisciplinary collaborations. These include:

  • opening educational and scholarly access to the museum’s collection and staff of curators and conservators;
  • developing courses and seminars for enrolled students and extended studies on art, art history, arts management (in conjunction with the DeVos Institute for Arts Management on campus), museum studies, cultural diplomacy, conservation and other topics;
  • establishing graduate and/or postdoctoral fellowships and offering internships to students and DeVos fellows;
  • co-presenting the museum’s Intersections contemporary art exhibitions, some of its traveling exhibitions and the Sunday Concert series with umd’s School of Music;
  • co-publishing the “University of Maryland-Phillips Collection Book Prize”;
  • expanding programs such as the Creative Voices DC series of lectures, films and more, including bringing them to campus;
  • digitizing the museum’s archives of 9,500 scholarly books, exhibition catalogues and correspondence, making them easily accessible to scholars, researchers and students worldwide.

The six-year, renewable agreement also provides free museum admission to umd employees and Alumni Association members. UMD will invest $3 million in the partnership over that time.

George Vradenburg, the museum’s board chairman, hailed the agreement for creating new opportunities and advancing both institutions’ missions and international reputations.

“Picasso purportedly said of computers, ‘They are useless. They can only give you answers.’ Our increasing visual world demands that we add arts to STEM curriculum, so we can ask—and answer—the right questions,” he says. “We believe this type of provocative and inclusive conversation can only arise from a collection of such specific and singular identity as the Phillips’s.”


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