An organization called Art Bridges, which has previously supplied grants and loans to the Fairfield University Art Museum, recently announced a three-year, $56,000 grant to the museum to help expand its opening hours as part of the organization’s Access for All initiative.
Starting Nov. 2, the museum will be open from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Thursdays for the next three years. Currently, the art museum in Bellarmine Hall operates until 4 p.m.
Fairfield University Art Museum director Carey Weber explained that the new hours on Thursdays come as a request from their visitors.
“Lots of people over the 13 years that the museum has been open have told us that they wished we were open longer hours, as our regular hours were Tuesday through Saturday, 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.,” said Weber.
The Art Bridges Foundation has the mission of expanding access to American art in the United States. As Alice Walton, the organization’s founder, explained on the website, “everybody deserves access to art. Art is hope, it’s opportunity, it’s education, it’s all of the things we all want.”
With the new grant, the museum hopes to integrate a new audience of night-goers who would probably not be able to visit the museum within the five hours of operation.
Art Bridges is associated with the Crystal Bridges Museum, which often loans pieces of art to museums along with a grant, to increase the accessibility of that art and the museum where it is being exhibited. Art Bridges previously gave Fairfield University a loan for a piece of art and a grant for an exhibition, however, the COVID-19 pandemic interrupted the exhibition’s visibility.
However, Weber has applied for the loan of a museum painting called “Flags” by Childe Hassam, whose current loan expires in 2026. When the painting goes on display along with an exhibition at Fairfield University, the extended hours will still be available for many months for anyone to visit.
“We were thrilled that they gave us enough money to do that for three years, which happened to coincide with the amount of time until the end of the loan of the painting we’ve asked for in 2026.” said Weber.
Currently, the museum is displaying an exhibit dedicated to Arthur Szyk, a Polish Jewish immigrant whose art represented the plight European Jews experienced during the first half of the 20th century. In light of the rise of extremism in the United States, especially anti-semitic rhetoric and violence, the museum argues that “this exhibition provides a platform for conversations on the urgent topics of human rights and social justice.”
“In Real Times – Arthur Szyk: Artist and Soldier for Human Rights” is open until Dec. 16, and the extended hours of the museum will be able to expand access to this politically and socially meaningful art.
Weber also commented on this exhibit, saying, “This current exhibition of work by Arthur Schtick has had the most student impact of any show we’ve ever done.”
In addition to the five or six different exhibitions a year, the museum also hosts around 60 programs a year, ranging from drawing parties and de-stressing with art evening events, to craft collective parties. Several of these events and many others are available to view and sign up for on the Life@Fairfield website.
Through these events and the new extended hours, Weber hopes to broaden the presence of the museum on campus life. By combining access to thought-provoking exhibits and outreach events, such as art parties, the museum hopes to be a place that students want to visit.
“Being open until eight o’clock gives more flexibility to create those kinds of programs in the future, and make it a place where people can feel like they can just hop in and come and hang out,” explained Weber.