Explore the life and legacy of Richmond native Benjamin Wigfall (1930–2017)—artist, educator, and champion of arts equity. In this first retrospective of his pioneering career, the exhibition highlights the period from his early years in Virginia in the 1950s to his founding of Communications Village, a community art space in Kingston, New York, in the 1970s. Learn about his Richmond roots in the Church Hill neighborhood, his stellar achievements, and his lifelong commitment to building community and paying it forward to future generations. Through nearly 50 works of art by Wigfall, numerous video recordings, and a printmaking display, visitors will experience an intimate portrait of his artwork, impact, and legacy.

Benjamin Wigfall and Communications Village showcases Wigfall’s artistic development, from abstract painting, to printmaking, to his pioneering work in social-practice art and his founding of Communications Village. He was a VMFA Fellowship recipient who art educators and museum leaders regarded highly for his artistry and personal character. Wigfall was also the youngest artist to have his work acquired by VMFA. From Richmond, where his passion for artmaking began, to his pursuit of higher education at Hampton University and Yale, to his professorship at State University of New York (SUNY), New Paltz, Wigfall recognized inequities and dedicated his life to providing access and opportunity.

While teaching at SUNY, New Paltz, he selected a close-knit Black neighborhood in nearby Kingston for the location of his studio because it reminded him of Church Hill. Named Communications Village, his studio became a place for making art and mentoring youth. In this inclusive, vibrant setting, Wigfall invited leading African American artists of the era to engage with the local community and to experiment with printmaking as an art form. Benjamin Wigfall and Communications Village traces Wigfall’s development as an artist and showcases Communications Village as a major conceptual artwork within his larger body of paintings, assemblages, and prints. The exhibition also features more than 30 major works by Benny Andrews, Betty Blayton, Melvin Edwards, Charles Gaines, Mavis Pusey, and others affiliated with Communications Village.

Benjamin Wigfall and Communications Village is organized by the Samuel Dorsky Museum of Art and the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts. The exhibition at VMFA is curated by Dr. Sarah Eckhardt, Associate Curator of Modern and Contemporary Art.

Lettie Pate Whitehead Evans Exhibition Endowment
Julia Louise Reynolds Fund

Bank of America

Birch Douglass
Elisabeth Shelton Gottwald Fund
The Francena T. Harrison Foundation

Mr. and Mrs. R. Augustus Edwards III
VMFA Council Exhibition Fund

VMFA is also grateful to the following sponsors:

Ms. Paula Saylor-Robinson and Mr. Danny Robinson | Paul and Nancy Springman

This list represents sponsors as of February 1, 2023.

Chimneys (detail), 1951, Benjamin Wigfall (American, 1930–2017), oil on canvas. Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, General Endowment Fund. ⓒ Benjamin Wigfall.