Museum receives $2M gift


Kirk Newman. Photo via

A $2-million gift has been bestowed tonight to a museum in the region for art education.

The Kalamazoo Institute of Arts, or KIA, said that Kalamazoo residents Rosemary and John Brown made the donation to the Kirk Newman Art School at KIA.

The Browns, along with Newman and KIA leadership, announced the gift at KIA’s Art Hop reception.

Kirk Newman

The Browns’ decision to give to the Kirk Newman Art School at KIA is based on their “admiration of Kirk as a person and on our desire to validate his legacy," Rosemary Brown said.

"Our hope is that the school will continue to thrive and to have an ongoing positive influence on the cultural life of the Kalamazoo area," she said.

Newman, a sculptor, was a long-time director of the art school and an art instructor for nearly 30 years, after arriving to the area in late 1950s with the University of Michigan extension service.

A bronze cast by Newman, “People,” is one of the sculptures at the entrance to the museum.

Community art education

The non-degree art school teaches roughly 3,000 students annually, with 75 professional artists teaching roughly 300 classes to artists of all ages.

"Every term, we hear gratitude from students for what we do," said Denise Lisiecki, director and painting instructor, Kirk Newman Art School. "We hear thanks for a new technique or a creative breakthrough or for helping deal with grief or stress. At the least, we help people re-connect with their creativity.

“This gift from Rosemary and John means we can continue to do that — to serve our community and enrich it for the future."

Allocating funds

Lisiecki said the gift will be put to use immediately.

The school’s plans include providing broader access to first-time students through scholarships and studio upgrades.

The school will use the gift to create earmarked funds to target underserved audiences with full scholarships.

Starting with this month’s Young Artists of Kalamazoo County exhibit, area art teachers can choose up to two students each for merit- and need-based awards. A total of 150 scholarships are possible.

Teachers will also be able to win scholarships to help them take summer art classes.

The school’s Executive Director Belinda Tate said the organization is "thrilled to have substantive new scholarships” to expand its reach.

The funds will also allow the school to begin a post-baccalaureate residency for advanced art students.

Six recent graduates — two in painting, two in printmaking, one in ceramics and one in photography or digital art — will begin a seven-month residency in the fall. Applications will open March 30. 

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