Housatonic Museum of Art
The Housatonic Museum of Art (HMA) stands as one of the premier college art collections in the United States. Scattered throughout the Housatonic Community College Campus and located within the university’s Lafayette Hall, the free and permanent collections at this museum traverse centuries and art forms to enhance the cultural life of Bridgeport students and residents. While strolling through the campus hallways, visitors are greeted with 18th, 19th, and 20th century works of art, as well as ethnographic objects from Africa, the Americas, and Oceania. These collections are quite unique to the Housatonic campus, and permanent exhibitions remain on continuous display throughout the 300,000 square-foot facility. Within the permanent collection, visitors can view and interact over 4,000 works of art from various time periods, and some of the most famous artists featured at this museum include Renoir, Picasso, Matisse, Ansel Adams, Klimt, and many others. The Burt Chernow Gallery, named after the museum’s founder, offers rotating exhibitions every six weeks that feature national, regional, and even local artists as well as art shows.
Backstory and Context
The Housatonic Museum of Art was founded in 1967 by iconic artist, professor of art and art history, and chairman of Housatonic’s art department, Burt Chernow. Backed by a strong dedication towards presenting, preserving, and interpreting objects of artistic and historic value, Chernow gathered gifts from artists, private collectors, commercial galleries, and others to build a compelling and multifaceted collection. Since Robin Zella took over the role of director in the late 1990s, the museum has hosted a myriad of exciting exhibitions passing through the museum’s doors.1
The first exhibition, in 1998, showcased a collection of Sol LeWitt works titled, Forms Derived From a Cube. Ansel Adam’s revolutionary Classic Images exhibition rolled through the HMA in 2001, and in 2014, David Hayes’s exhibition, Modern Master of American Abstraction, gave visitors a fresh insight into the role of American abstract artists and pieces. HMA currently contains over 4,000 works of art including paintings, sculptures, drawings, and other mediums. 2
Locals, students, and tourists should always check to see what museum events are available when visiting. Sponsored by the HMA and often in collaboration with other organizations, most of these events remain free to the public and encourage interaction, study, and art appreciation courses. For example, HMA hosted the renowned Draw On! Program, which showcases Housatonic students drawing visual images on the Cafeteria walls in the Lafayette Hall. Past events included lectures and workshops with graphic designers, live poetry readings, black history month celebrations, and even inflatable-suit bicycle rides.
Furthermore, HMA often partners with local businesses and other institutions to present both students and the public with educational experiences through art. The education programs at HMA typically features a lecture series that coincide with upcoming or current gallery exhibitions, though visitors can also ask about the Werth Family Foundation Student Docent Program, Writing About Art, and the Ansel Adams: Classic Images programs. 3