Arts + Culture

UCLA’s Fowler Museum Receives $1 Million Endowment for Director’s Position

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The FowlerMuseum at UCLA has received a $1million gift from Shirley and Ralph Shapiro of Los Angeles.

Since 2003, the Shapiros havesupported the Fowler Museum's exhibitions andprograms, and in 2004, they established the Shirley & Ralph Shapiro Director's Discretionary Fund. This newpledge of $1 million is made in honor of current Fowler director MarlaC. Berns, in recognition of her outstanding accomplishments and contributionsto UCLA and the community.

The pledge will be used toestablish an endowed fund that will yield annual income to be used at the director'sdiscretion. Berns will be the first Shirley & Ralph Shapiro Director of theFowler Museum.

"We're pleased to support Marla Berns'talent, energy and inspired leadership of the Fowler, a museum that is a truetreasure for UCLA and Los Angeles," said Shirley Shapiro. "With thisendowment, we hope both to honor Marla Berns' dynamism and innovative effortsas well as to enhance the attractiveness of the director's position for futureleaders of the Fowler."

When Berns assumed thedirectorship of the Fowler in November 2001, it was a homecoming to a placethat had played an important role in her undergraduate and graduate education.Berns earned her bachelor's degree (1973) and Ph.D. (1986) in art history atUCLA, where she specialized in African arts — a particular strength of theFowler.

One of the most important initiatives that Berns haslaunched as director came to fruition last fall with the opening of "Intersections:World Arts, Local Lives," a four-year project and the first long-termexhibition of highlights from the Fowler's renowned permanent collection ofglobal arts. The $1 million exhibition features a unique thematic andcross-cultural approach and incorporates a wide range of new technologies.

Inaddition, Berns has encouraged the presentation of work by contemporary artistsin exhibitions that speak to both the ongoing dynamism of world cultures and tothe resonance between contemporary art and historical works. To that end, theFowler debuted the national traveling exhibition "The Missing Peace: ArtistsConsider the Dalai Lama," which drew record-breaking audiences to the museumduring the summer of 2006.

Inaddition, coming to the Fowler in April 2007 is the West Coast solo debut ofacclaimed Ghanaian artist El Anatsui, recently named by The Independent (U.K.) asone of Africa's 50 greatest cultural figures. "ElAnatsui: Gawu" will feature eight large-scale works thatmake use of large quantities of discarded everyday materials — such as flattenedmetal liquor bottle wrappers and food-tin tops — stitched together andtransformed to create works of stunning originality that simultaneouslyreference traditional Ghanaian textiles.

Since her arrival, Berns hasmade audience-building and enhanced visibility two institutional priorities.Under her leadership, the Fowler has added several new programs, including thepopular Fowler Out Loud, a Thursday night student performance series, as wellas the museum's largest family festival ever — a spring 2006 event attended bythousands and presented in conjunction with the exhibition "CARNAVAL." Berns alsoencouraged the development of Fowler OutSpoken, an evening speakers' seriesthat welcomes noted artists, scholars and cultural leaders to discuss ideassurrounding current exhibitions. Recent Fowler OutSpoken presenters haveincluded artist Bill Viola, satirist Harry Shearer and cultural theorist W.J.T.Mitchell. One of Berns' first moves in 2002 was to eliminate the Fowler'sadmission fee, making the museum one of only a handful of free museums in the Los Angeles area. Lastyear, attendance increased 50 percent, and in the past five years, annualmembership support has doubled.

Shirley and Ralph Shapiro,both graduates of UCLA, have been active volunteers for their alma mater andgenerous donors to many schools and programs at the university. The Shapiro'sphilanthropy also extends beyond UCLA to many organizations throughout Los Angeles and across thecountry that support the arts, environmental issues, children's health andhuman rights.

"I am honored by this recognition from Shirley andRalph Shapiro, who are such engaged and dedicated philanthropists andvolunteers," Berns said. "I am fortunate to be the director of the Fowler Museum — an institutionwith which I have been actively involved since my graduate years at UCLA in thelate 1970s — and I am deeply touched by the Shapiro's vote of confidence. Withthis naming, I accept the challenges and responsibilities their generosityconfers, and I look forward to leading this fine institution further on itsjourney. The remarkably talentedstaff of the Fowler Museum also deserves thisacknowledgment, as each of them helps make my own professionalsuccesses here possible."

 

The FowlerMuseum explores art and materialculture primarily from Africa, Asia and the Pacific, and the Americas, past and present. TheFowler seeks to enhance understanding and appreciation of the diverse peoples,cultures and religions of the world through highly contextualized interpretiveexhibitions, publications and public programming informed by interdisciplinaryapproaches and the perspectives of the cultures represented. The museumprovides exciting and informative exhibitions and events for the UCLA communityand the people of Greater Los Angeles and beyond.

 

The museum is open Wednesday through Sunday, from noonuntil 5 p.m., and on Thursday from noon until 8 p.m. The museum is closedMonday and Tuesday. The Fowler, part of UCLA's School of the Arts and Architecture,is located in the north part of the UCLA campus. Admission is free. Parking isavailable for $8 in Lot 4. For moreinformation, the public may call (310) 825-4361 or visit www.fowler.ucla.edu.

-UCLA-

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