Barnes and de Mazia Foundations to merge

Barnes and de Mazia Foundations to merge

The Philadelphia Inquirer
April 17, 2015
By Stephan Salisbury

Ending an often testy and sometimes distant 25-year coexistence, the Barnes Foundation will merge with the foundation established by the estate of Violette de Mazia, Albert C. Barnes' longtime colleague.

The Violette de Mazia Foundation—whose sole purpose has been to promulgate and support art education based on the formalist pedagogical principles of Barnes, de Mazia, and the philosopher John Dewey—will form the core of the Barnes-de Mazia Education Program, to be based at the Barnes Foundation on the Parkway.

The $8 million de Mazia endowment, created by the sale of artwork following de Mazia's death in 1988, will serve as an endowment for the new program and be restricted to its educational purposes.

Montgomery County Orphans' Court, which has jurisdiction over the Bryn Mawr-based de Mazia Foundation, and the state attorney general approved the merger this week, Barnes officials said.

De Mazia for decades was director of education at the Barnes, serving as final arbiter on all matters related to the foundation's stunning collection of impressionist and early modern art, and its extensive art-appreciation program. Albert Barnes died in 1951.

The foundation "felt its mission would best be served by unifying with the Barnes," de Mazia president and board member Jerome Bogutz said Wednesday. "We will continue to do those things that we've been doing for a long time."

The merger reunites organizations that were once intertwined but that unraveled during the 1990s, when the Barnes entered a contentious period of disputes with former students, neighbors in Merion, where it was then located, and others.

The de Mazia Foundation, however, never supported the fractious litigation seeking to block the Barnes' move to Philadelphia. In fact, as the Barnes struggled to avoid bankruptcy in the late 1990s, the foundation threw it a life preserver in the form of $700,000.

"The unification of the education programs of the Barnes Foundation and the Violette de Mazia Foundation will lead to an expansion of educational programming at the Barnes, and help to advance its mission through robust programming and outreach," Joseph Neubauer, Barnes board chair, said in a statement.

Judge Phyllis W. Beck, chair of the Independence Foundation and former general counsel of the Barnes, greeted news of the merger with enthusiasm.

"These two organizations have the same goals and it makes no sense for them to be at odds," she said Wednesday. Beck felt the same when she was general counsel during the climactic period ending litigation over the move in 2008. She and her longtime friend Judge Norma L. Shapiro, de Mazia chair, agreed to work closely together, Beck said.

The two foundations "belong together, they absolutely belong together," Beck said. "They have the same goals and the same aspirations, and so I think this is wonderful."

Danielle Rice, director of the museum leadership program at Drexel University's Westphal College of Media Arts and Design, said she was "thrilled to hear the news" of the merger. Rice worked to bring the de Mazia Foundation's program to the Delaware Art Museum a few years ago when she was director there.

"They had taken the method developed by Dr. Barnes and perfected by Miss de Mazia on the road, offering the program at a variety of museums," Rice recalled. "Their merging with the Barnes Foundation's already diverse and excellent education programs seems like the most appropriate sort of homecoming."

Bogutz said the de Mazia foundation's outreach programs would remain intact, including initiatives to bring art education to prisons, veterans, and public schools. "They will remain as part of the educational program in the Barnes," he said.

The new program will also offer scholarships, a research fellowship, and an annual de Mazia lecture.