PAFA diversity plan reaps big donation

A new strategic plan implemented by the board of the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts last fall is reaping rewards. A major collection of about 400 artworks has just been donated to the Academy, in part because of its commitment to diversity.

The collection comes from local artist Linda Lee Alter, who started collecting work by women in the 1980’s. She was spurred by the epiphany she had one day that all the art in her home was by men.  She knew there was great work by women, but they can be hard to find.

Her collection includes work by prominent artists like Kiki Smith, Joan Brown, Louise Bourgeois, and Gertrude Ambercrombie.

Alter collected with the intention of one day donating the works to a more permanent institution. 30 years on, she chose PAFA because its board of trustees had implemented a formal plan to increase diversity in all areas of the Academy.

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“It’s always wanted to move in these directions,” said Alter. “With their new strategic plan which came into effect this autumn…the vision is so similar to what I had been hoping to find that it was just perfect.”

PAFA’s curator of modern art, Bob Cozzolino, tries to put popular works in context with relevant but lesser-known art.

“We have a major work by Gertrude Abercrombie – she’s not a household name, but she was extremely significant at a particular moment in time and influences a lot of younger artists,” said Cozzolino. “A lot of those figures are women who for one reason or another have not gotten their due.”

Cozzolino says a catalog and exhibit of Alter’s collection are in the planning stages, and could be packaged as a traveling show in a few years.

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