Fitchburg State’s De Facto Museum at Risk

Written By: Brian Lombardi

The Fitchburg State University Board of Trustees met recently to discuss the future of its support of The Fitchburg Art Museum, as the affiliation between the two has come into question.

Matt Lewis, a senior at Fitchburg State and communications media major, was approached by professor Rob Carr to take on the task of representing the undergraduate view on the importance of continuing relations with FAM. Lewis, Carr, and Museum director Nick Capasso walked into the Mazzaferro Center to meet with the board on March 31st.

This meeting could have determined the potential future of the museum’s involvement around campus—including the free admission for students to the museum. Without the Fitchburg Art Museum’s relationship, most would notice the empty exhibitions in Hammond Hall, the library, or the Sanders Administration building, but FAM is rooted in more than just those walls.

It was up to Lewis to help fully articulate how valuable the relationship between the university and the art museum actually is. On that Thursday morning he was given one minute to share his input, responsible for providing the student’s perspective on the advantages of having FAM as the rightful museum of FSU. He stated that they were in attendance with the hope of “validating different voices, the culture of Fitchburg State, or even Fitchburg in general.”

The Memorandum of Agreement between Fitchburg State University and the Fitchburg Art Museum declares that the responsibility of this arrangement is to “engage in activities that are mutually beneficial, as well as activities that help support the economy, livability, and quality of life in Fitchburg.”

However, should these conditions not be met, under the mutual understanding section it says that either party may terminate this agreement with a written notice 60 days prior. Robert Antonucci and Nick Capasso signed this memorandum in April 2015.

It’s possible that first year president of the university Richard Lapidus, as well as the rest of the board, needed to see firsthand the effectiveness of funding and supporting the museum—something that could best be expressed by a student. By presenting his case to such significant figures in the university, Lewis embodied the merit of maintaining such a vital relationship to the community. The board is familiar with Capasso and professor Carr, but seeing the competence of a student taking formal action was integral to the conversation.

“I’ve been on stage in front of 500+ people, and at various theaters, but I was the most terrified I have ever been in front of 30 people, because I was representing the students of Fitchburg State.”

This appointment gave Lewis his first sample of persuading a professional audience. He noted the attentiveness of the board when it came his time to speak— each hanging on his words, which he was careful not to waste. He was glowing after his effort, and the impression it seemed to have made was not lost on him.

“The presentation went great— smoothly. It was the most gratifying moment. I stood in the hallway, reflecting on what I had just done…A few mouths speaking the voices of thousands.”

I reached out to Capasso to get his input on how Thursday’s meeting went. “I think that we succeeded in letting them know that FAM is now FSU’s art museum,” he responded, “and that the relationship offers significant educational advantages to FSU students.”

Fitchburg State primarily provides annual financial support to the art museum, and in return FAM delivers a number of academic collaborations. These academic resources are utilized in the humanities, communications, and mathematics departments just to name a few. Outside of academia, FAM supplies expert consultations, volunteer internships, and student and recent alumni employment in marketing and design opportunities.

“The students in Rob Carr’s document design class work in a real client/firm relationship,” Capasso continued, “and create implemented museum-quality design and marketing projects that they can add to their professional portfolios when they go on the job market.”

The relationship has never been a difficult one, but with the development of the memorandum and a new president on the board; it’s rational to take everything into review.

“It was cool to see the president understand that the museum is a part of our community,” Lewis shared happily, “and that it truly is something great.”

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