The Resource Agency history

Agency history

Agency history
Agency history
Member of
  • Entered
  • Revised
Biographical or historical data
  • The Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, the nation’s first state-supported art museum, opened to the public on 16 January 1936, "to promote education in the realm of art throughout the commonwealth," (Section 9-78, Code of Virginia). A partnership between private donors and state legislators, the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts was established following the 1919 donation from John Barton Payne, jurist, and discriminating art collector, gave a collection of paintings to the Commonwealth. The Payne donation and other works of art needed a permanent home that could provide exhibit and storage space – something the Commonwealth did not have at that time. In response to this need for a permanent home for state-owned art collections, Payne donated $100,000 to be used for the construction of a state museum. On 27 February 1932, the donation was conditionally accepted (Acts of Assembly 1932, Chapter 70). Governor John Garland Pollard led a campaign to raise additional private funds, and promoted the use of state revenue for operating expenses. Additional monies from the Federal Works Project Administration completed the funding, and in 1934 the General Assembly designated the site for the building on the grounds of the Robert E. Lee Camp Soldiers’ Home at Boulevard and Grove avenues, named it the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, and vested control and management in a Board of Trustees. A special fund composed of revenue received for operating expenses was set up for maintenance of the Museum. Works of art are acquired only through private donation and income from endowments.
  • From the establishment of the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, the Board of Trustees was given full power and authority to manage, control, maintain, and operate the Museum. The Board numbers from 25 to 35 members appointed by the Governor. Ex-officio members are the Governor, Lieutenant-Governor, speaker of the House of Delegates, and the Mayor of Richmond. Terms of office are limited to five years, with no person eligible to serve consecutively more than two terms. The Board determines policy, and selects a Director to carry out Museum operations. Directors and their dates of service: Thomas C. Colt, Jr., 1935-1948; Leslie Cheek, Jr., 1948-1968; James M. Brown, 1969-1976; R. Peter Mooz, 1976-1981; Paul N. Perrot, 1984-1991; Katharine C. Lee, 1991-2000; Michael Brand, 2000-2005; and Alexander L. Nyerges, 2006 - . During World War II, Thomas C. Colt, Jr. took a leave of absence from the Museum to reenlist in the military. In his place, Beatrice von Keller and Violet MacDougall Pollard became Associate Directors of the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, overseeing Museum operations during Mr. Colt's absence.
  • Over the history of Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, the physical building has undergone many additions and renovations. In 1954, using state appropriations and private philanthropy, a north wing was added to increase gallery space and house a 530-seat theatre with a professionally equipped stage. The 1970 south wing, financed solely by the state, restored the originally-conceived Georgian style rectangle. This wing increased gallery space and expanded operational facilities. The later north wing, also funded by the state, opened in 1976, adding three more galleries, a sculpture garden with a cascading fountain, 375-seat auditorium, lecture hall, relocated members’ suite, and a public cafeteria. In 1985, the west wing, financed by combined grants of $12 million from Paul Mellon and Sydney and Frances Lewis, and matched by $10 million appropriated by the commonwealth, opened. The 1976 north wing was later demolished to make room for a 100,000 square foot expansion designed by London-based architect Rick Mather, which is expected to open in 2009.
  • In 1953, the Artmobile program, financed by private donors, businesses and foundations, provided statewide opportunities for education in the arts through traveling programs and exhibits. At the height of the program, there were four Artmobiles in service, including one specifically geared towards college students. The Artmobile program was discontinued in 1994 after 41 years of service.
  • Established in 1955, the Virginia Museum Theatre was the resident theatre group of the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts. Offering high-quality productions and notable guest performers and directors, the Virginia Museum Theatre brought avant-garde productions as well as popular theatre productions to Richmond. The Virginia Museum Theatre began as a community theatre company and in the 1970s became a "professional, Equity-affiliated LORT-C theater". In 1986, the Virginia Museum Theatre became TheatreVirginia, an organization that was independent of the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts. TheatreVirginia continued to present productions at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts until 2002 when TheatreVirginia ceased operating due to budget constraints.
  • The Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, through its Office of Statewide Partnerships, has partnered with over 350 nonprofit institutions throughout Virginia to deliver programs, exhibitions to the citizens of Virginia. Now housed in the Pauley Center, the Office of Statewide Partnerships offers crated exhibitions, audiovisual programs, lectures, and workshops in addition to programs specifically geared to students and the educational requirements indicated in Virginia's Standards of Learning program.
  • The Virginia Museum of Fine Arts is active in many aspects of art and arts education. In addition to active acquisition and exhibitions programs, the Museum offers many instructional programs including lectures, special programs as well as fellowship, apprenticeship and resident programs. An extensive art reference library is available to the general public.
  • Publications of the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts include a bulletin/calendar and regular exhibition catalogues. Previous publications include "Arts in Virginia" from 1960 until 1993.
Cataloging source
Agency history
  • This is not a record. This is background information for Virginia's state government records
  • Record Group 34
  • The Library of Virginia

Library Locations

    • Library of VirginiaBorrow it
      800 East Broad Street, Richmond, VA, 23219, US
      37.5415632 -77.4360805
Processing Feedback ...