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Lila Harnett and the 20th Anniversary of the Harnett Print Study Center

As part of the celebration, we asked Lila Harnett to share her thoughts on the 20th anniversary of the Harnett Print Study Center and the Harnett Summer Research Fellowship.

I’ve been thinking about how quickly the passage of time goes. The Harnett Print Study Center’s celebration of its 20th year stimulates so many memories, and yet it seems only yesterday that it opened. I picture it now and wonder what it will be like in another twenty years.

At one time we didn’t have those capacious file cabinets holding our prints neatly laid out one upon the other. We didn’t have a separate display room in which to plan future shows, to study groupings of images, or particular prints our Harnett Fellows could examine for the work they do.

And what a variety of endeavors they undertake … differing skills for moving them up a career ladder. Our first fellow, Olivia Kohler-Maga, came to us as an Art History major in 2002 and proceeded to become Assistant Director of the Brady Art Gallery at George Washington University, Washington, DC.  Chris Oliver, who was a fellow in 2003, also an Art History major, went on to receive his PhD from the University of Virginia, and became Assistant Curator of American Art at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts.

One after another, we had the distinct pleasure of watching them find their way through a myriad of career opportunities. Bradley Wright Ferrarini, who was our 2005 Harnett Summer Research Fellow, earned a B.S. in Marketing while minoring in French and Art History. She added an M.A. in Arts Administration from New York University and won her first job at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. For seven years she was a Major Development Officer and member of the Capital Campaign Team.  In 2013 Bradley moved on to the Museum of Modern Art to become Senior Development Officer for Major Gifts.  Today we find her melding her skills as New York Director of American Friends of the Musée d’Orsay, traveling frequently between Paris and New York. What a career!

Another Harnett Summer Research Fellow who found success in The Big Apple is Carmen Hermo. She earned her B.A. in 2007 with honors in Art History and English, her M.A. at Hunter College, and undertook an internship at the Museum of Modern Art in the Department of Drawings. She then worked with the Whitney Museum of American Art cataloging their collection of drawings and prints. 

In 2010 Carmen moved uptown to the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, where she remained for six years to become the Assistant Curator for Collections. Her next move was to join the curatorial team of Brooklyn Museum’s Elizabeth A. Sackler Center for Feminist Art. She is there today, having contributed to one exciting show after another. They include Roots of “The Dinner Party” (2017) …, Radical Women: Latin American Art (2018) …, and Nobody Promised You Tomorrow (2019).  Along the way, her picture appeared in The New York Times acknowledging her affiliation with blockbuster shows.  Today Carmen serves on the Council for Feminist Art and similar groups. 

Other Fellows have migrated to notable museums across the country … to Texas, Iowa, Utah … taking with them the knowledge imparted by the one and only Richard Waller and his long-standing colleague, Elizabeth Schlatter. Waller, Executive Director, University Museums is soft-spoken but authoritative. He teaches museum studies and knows his field, earning the respect of students and faculty alike.  As a professor, he also handles external internships. Elizabeth Schlatter, Deputy Director and Curator of Exhibitions, who also teaches museum studies, maintains a close, supportive and encouraging relationship with the Fellows who speak of her with great warmth. 

Under their tutelage, all sorts of remarkable things happen.  Hadley Beckstrand has just completed her summer fellowship at the Print Study Center.  --  She had never been to New York.  --  She had never seen the glories of the Met, MOMA, the Whitney. By using her fellowship travel allowance, she went to the city where she was shepherded by both Bradley and Carmen. They arranged for her to shadow executives in many phases of the art world, from curators to gallerists, from appraisers to education programmers, artists to grant writers.  --  Once back in Virginia, and pondering her next step, to her delight, she was offered the chance to join the University Museums’ staff as “Curatorial Assistant” for the new academic year. And thus another U of R Harnett Fellow is on her way. 

Reminiscing today I also think with pride of personal friends who contributed to the collection.  For example, Zane Greene gave us two handsome Calder prints. Jan and her husband Dr. Howard Hendler donated several works, including an exciting Toulouse-Lautrec poster. Noted international artist Moira Geoffrion contributed from her personal collection. 

Moira is schooled in woodworking, clay sculpture, metal fabrication and casting, drawing, and figure modeling … all of which she taught at Notre Dame for over a dozen years. In 1986 she moved to Arizona to head the U of A’s art department before retiring from teaching in 2011. She has exhibited widely across the world and received numerous grants and international honors. It’s a privilege to have her contribute to our Print Study Center.

My husband, Joel, who died in 2006, was a 1945 Phi Beta Kappa graduate of the University of Richmond. I know he would have been proud of the Harnett Print Study Center and his alma mater. I know I am.

About Joel and Lila Harnett

The University’s art museum, the Joel and Lila Harnett Museum of Art, is named in honor of the Harnetts, as is the Joel and Lila Harnett Print Study Center.

Joel Harnett, a noted publisher, poet, art collector, and civic leader (he ran for New York City mayor in 1977), was a 1945 Phi Beta Kappa graduate of the University of Richmond. In 1950, and for almost two decades, he was with Look Magazine in New York. In 1969, he founded Media Horizons, a public radio, broadcasting, and magazine company. In 1980 he and his wife Lila launched several prominent magazines, including Phoenix Home & Garden, one of the most successful regional home and garden publications in the country.

Lila Harnett is a collector of American art, she served as an art critic at CUE Magazine, was a member of the New York State Council on the Arts where she was chair of the Museum Committee. Her education included study at the Art Students’ League and New York School of Interior Design. She was the founding president of ArtTable in 1980, a national organization for professional women in the arts, now with chapters across the country. She was awarded an Honorary Degree of Doctor of Fine Arts from the University of Richmond in 2007.