Published: May 20, 2003
NEW ORLEANS, LA. – At the spring symposium of The Decorative Arts Trust, April 10-13, the Jonathan L. Fairbanks Lectureship was announced. Through the anonymous fund of the Philadelphia Foundation, $75,000 was given to endow a perpetual lectureship to honor Fairbanks, the president of the trust and one of the leading experts of American decorative arts. The Fairbanks lectureship will allow special honorariums for keynote speakers at the biennial trust symposia.
The donor stated that the lectureship is to honor Fairbanks as a man of encyclopedic knowledge in the American decorative arts field, as one who generously shares this knowledge and whose enthusiasm for the field enlightens and enriches audiences, colleagues and friends across the country.
Fairbanks commented: “It thrills me that exceptional decorative arts scholars will be funded twice yearly to deliver distinguished lectures at meetings of the Decorative Arts Trust. This new lectureship became possible through a generous gift by one who cares deeply about the importance and meaning of the arts of design in American life. Although unnamed, the donor is one who has long been a highly original and effective supporter of the fine and decorative arts of this nation. That my name is cited for this lectureship is indeed a very great honor. Collectively, all trust members will surely enjoy the benefits of this new initiative forevermore.”
Fairbanks is currently guest curator for the exhibit, “Becoming a Nation, Americana from the Diplomatic Reception Rooms, US Department of State,” which opened at the Portland Art Museum in April. It will travel to Athens, Ga.; Fresno, Calif.; Palm Beach, Fla.; Cincinnati, Ohio; Huntsville, Ala.; Sioux City, Iowa; and Portland, Maine, closing January 2, 2005. The catalog for this exhibit is published by Rizzoli, New York.
After graduating from the Winterthur museum program with his second masters degree and holding curatorial positions at Winterthur for nine years, Fairbanks became the Katharine Lane Weems curator of American decorative arts and sculpture at the MFA, Boston, from 1970 to 1999. His exhibits and publications are numerous, including the classic text often used in universities, American Furniture, 1620 to the Present, written with Elizabeth Bid- well Bates.
Fairbanks’ honors and awards reflecting his varied interests and expertise are numerous as well. They include the Victorian Society of America Award for Conservation, The Charles F. Montgomery Award from the Decorative Arts Society, The Urban Glass Award for Exceptional Museum Glass Exhibition, The Ellen Banning Ayer Award for Contributions to Arts and Culture, and the Lifetime Achievement Medal from the Society of Arts and Crafts, Boston.
His unflagging support of the arts is shown in his great number of professional affiliations such as Fellow of the American Institute for Conservation, Fellow of The Pilgrim Society, Organizer of the North American Prints Conferences, The Walpole Society, Board member of the Haystack School of Crafts, Fellow of the American Crafts Council and Board member of the Paul Revere House.
The first recipient of the Fairbanks lectureship was Jessie Poesch, professor of the history of art emeritus at the Newcomb department of art of Tulane University. Poesch is author of Early Furniture of Louisiana, The Art of the Old South: Painting, Architecture and the Products of Craftsmen, 1560-1860, and Newcomb Pottery: An Enterprise for Southern Women, 1895-1940. Her lecture, “The Crescent City: Art and Architecture in New Orleans to 1860,” was given at the trust spring symposium in New Orleans. She is currently the guest curator for the section, “New Orleans: Site of the Transfer, Prize of the Purchase,” in the New Orleans Museum of Art’s exhibit, “Jefferson’s America and Napoleon’s France.”
The Decorative Arts Trust is a nonprofit, educational organization created in 1977 for the study and preservation of the decorative arts. For information, 215-627-2859 or www.decorativeartstrust.org.
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