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Benjamin Wigfall’s Church Hill

A project created by student participants in the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts’ Museum Leaders in Training Program.

The 2017-18 Museum Leaders in Training [M.LiT] program focused on museum archival collections and documentation. Twenty-seven teens attended weekly sessions throughout the fall semester which ranged from lectures that explored the various approaches to archiving across museum departments to hands-on workshops that illustrated the strategies professionals use when documenting and storing art and other media for preservation in a collection.

Using interviews, scholarly research, online data, and other sources, teens worked together to document the life of Richmond African American artist Benjamin Wigfall and his experiences as a young artist living in the historic neighborhood of Church Hill.

Born in Richmond, Benjamin Leroy Wigfall (America, 1930-2017) grew up in Church Hill, a neighborhood known for historic moments and challenging times. After taking classes at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts as a high school student, he attended Hampton Institute (now Hampton University), with partial funding provided by three VMFA fellowships.

After graduating from Hampton, Wigfall earned an MFA from Yale School of Design and then went back to Hampton as a professor of art in the late 1950s and early ’60s. In 1963, he moved to New York to teach art at the State University of New York at New Paltz, where he also owned a gallery. Wigfall died on February 9, 2017, at the age of 87.

In 1951, VMFA acquired his painting Chimneys when Wigfall was just 21, making him the youngest artist to have a work enter the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts collection at the time. A prestigious jury unanimously selected the work for first prize in an exhibition of Virginia artists.

Featured Interviews:

Dr. Laura Browder, Dr. Sarah Eckhardt, Free Engufemi, Loretta Tillman, Governor L. Douglas Wilder

2017-18 M.LiT Students:

Malachi Aballa, Emily Anstett, Natalie Duke, Sophie George, Annette Griffith, Jillian Harrison, Kennedy Keith, Julia Lain, Chae Won Lee, T’ziyon Levi-Shackleford, Malena LoPrete, Avery McKay, Esme’ Munson, Paula Munthe, Page Olsen, Margaret Proffitt, William T. Proffitt, Carl Reed, Erin Rigby, Rodrecus Robinson Jr., Jane Ruggles, Rithanya Saravanan, Trinity Smith, Travis Taylor, Isabella Thomas, Anya Upadhyaya, Anna Wershbale.

Visiting Presenters:

Dr. Sarah Eckhardt, Associate Curator of Modern and Contemporary Art, VMFA; Free Engufemi, Untold RVA; Travis Fullerton, Chief Collection Manager of Photography; Briget Ganske, Videographer, Virginia Museum of Fine Arts; Virginia Museum of Fine Arts; Margaret Kidd, Project Archivist, Virginia Commonwealth University; J’Laine Newcombe, Chief Registrar, Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, Paige Newman, Archivist, Virginia Historical Society; Irina Rogova, Project Archivist, University of Richmond Boatwright Memorial Library; Courtney Tkacz, Archivist, Virginia Museum of Fine Arts; Governor L. Douglas Wilder.

Lead Teacher:

Sonya Coleman, Digital Collections Specialist, Library of Virginia

Program Manager:

Dr. Vaughn Garland: Assistant Educator, Virginia Museum of Fine Arts

Special Thanks:

Virginia Museum of Fine Arts Staff: Natalie Feister, Celeste Fetta, Travis Fullerton, Paula Saylor-Robinson, Richard Woodward and Lulan Yu.

Oakwood Arts: Shannon Castleman, Director; Amarise Carreras, Shannon Lowe, Julianne Tripp

The Valentine: Marisa E. Day, Student Programs and Tour Manager; Meg Hughes, Curator of Archives; Jim Kisicki, The Valentine Tour Guide


Generously sponsored by:

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