A $250,000 gift from Alison H. and Patrick D. Deem supports a $1.5 million fundraising effort to expand the Blanche Lazzell collection at the Art Museum of WVU. Lazzell’s “Justice” mural is currently on display in the Museum’s lower gallery. (WVU Photo)
A $1.5 million fundraising effort by West Virginia University’s College of Creative Arts will make the Art Museum of WVU the home for the world’s premier collection of works by renowned American modernist and Mountain State native Blanche Lazzell.
The effort is building momentum thanks to a $250,000 gift from dedicated WVU alumni Alison H. and Patrick D. Deem, of Bridgeport, West Virginia. Their gift complements a recent $50,000 gift from George Lilley to support new acquisitions at the Art Museum of WVU.
“As founding donors, Pat and Alison Deem have understood the vision and mission of the Art Museum of WVU since day one,” College of Creative Arts Dean H. Keith Jackson said. “Their support of this very important Blanche Lazzell acquisition – which will firmly establish the Art Museum as the institution for the study and presentation of her work anywhere in the world – is further testament to their commitment to the role the Art Museum of WVU serves on our campus, in our community and region. We can’t thank Pat and Alison enough for their commitment to, and support of, the museum and her collections that allow diverse audiences to experience the transforming power of art.”
The Deems’ contribution includes $25,000 reserved for a WVU Day of Giving challenge urging other alumni and friends to show their support. WVU Day of Giving is a 24-hour online fundraising event organized by the WVU Foundation to benefit the University’s greatest needs and opportunities. This year’s event is slated for March 22.
The broader $1.5 million fundraising effort will allow WVU to expand its collection of work by Lazzell, a pioneering painter and printmaker born in Maidsville, near Morgantown, in 1878. She earned a degree in fine arts from WVU in 1905 before continuing her studies in New York and Paris, where she was influenced by notable artists of the era.
Upon Lazzell’s return to the United States, she created some of the nation’s earliest abstract paintings and helped define abstract art in America. She eventually settled in Provincetown, Massachusetts, an art colony where she co-founded Provincetown Printers and became a leading figure in white-line woodblock printmaking.
The Art Museum of WVU has one of the largest public collections of Lazzell’s work, which is growing in popularity as she gains greater acclaim among the most progressive American artists of the first half of the 20th century. In that spirit, the Art Museum of WVU is pursuing a significant acquisition opportunity that will enable the Art Museum of WVU to expand its educational and public programs – on campus and beyond – celebrating Lazzell’s legacy as a groundbreaking woman artist from West Virginia. In partnership with Art Bridges, the museum is already preparing to launch an original exhibition of its Lazzell holdings, the first comprehensive look at her career to travel in nearly 20 years.
Patrick Deem earned his law degree from WVU in 1969, while Alison Deem graduated with her bachelor’s degree from WVU in 1970. Together, they have generously supported health, culture, arts and more at their alma mater for decades.
At the College of Creative Arts, the couple established the Deem Distinguished Visiting Artist series, sponsored the J. Bernard Schultz Endowed Professorship in Art and created the Alison Helm Art and Design Student Travel Fund, among other initiatives.
Alison Deem is also a devoted volunteer. She chaired the College of Creative Arts Visiting Committee, helped found Friends of the Art Museum of WVU and served on the board that managed WVU’s partnership with the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra. More recently, she served on the WVU Foundation Board of Directors and chaired its Women of WVU giving circle. She was inducted into the Order of Vandalia, WVU’s highest honor for service to the University, in 2012.
The Deems’ gift was made through the WVU Foundation, the nonprofit organization that receives and administers private donations on behalf of the University.