Canvas Focus

Join a vibrant community of art lovers. Canvas the entire collection.

Canvas is a unique Focus area, available beginning at the Partners ($600) level, for those who wish to broadly explore VMFA’s diverse collection as part of a vibrant community of art lovers. In recognition of their philanthropic support of VMFA, Canvas Focus members receive invitations to six events a year, which may include guided tours, cross-collection programs, behind-the-scenes museum events, and access to private collections in the Richmond community.

Why Canvas?

Spotlight on Meg and John Gottwald’s Private Collection

Photo: Travis Fullerton, © Virginia Museum of Fine Arts January 2017 Instagram Tour with Dr. Leo G. Mazow, Louise B. and J. Harwood Cochrane Curator of American Art.

Oh what a night to be a Canvas member!

Local collectors and longtime VMFA patrons Meg and John Gottwald opened their home to Canvas members this May for the group’s annual private collection event. Dr. Leo G. Mazow, Louise B. and J. Harwood Cochrane Curator of American Art, accompanied the group. “There was a strong sense of community that evening at the Gottwalds’ home,” he said. “The Canvas group does so many interesting things. VMFA has brought people together with a shared enthusiasm for art.”

According to Mazow, the Gottwald collection is particularly unique because they acquired close to one-third of the Barnett Aden Gallery’s holdings, the first gallery in the United States operated by African Americans from 1943 to 1969. “In those racially challenging times,” Mazow says, “this gallery was a beacon of cultural light. Meg Gottwald is essentially continuing the mission of James Herring (1898-1969), the founder and chair of Howard University’s Department of Art, and his student Alonzo Aden (1906-1961). Their mission was to create a space for all artists regardless of race and, ultimately, to give a voice to African American artists.”

Meg Gottwald’s story of how she acquired so many prints and drawings belonging to Elizabeth Catlett, one of the key artists featured at the Gallery, could be the makings of a novel because it’s filled with so many twists and turns. “I feel like I was chosen to safeguard this body of work,” says Gottwald of her journey to preserve and share this art with the public again. In fact, Catlett’s resilience and talent enthralled Gottwald so much that she went back to school to earn a graduate degree at Virginia Commonwealth University; her thesis was entitled “I am the Negro Woman: Emerging from the Margins.”

Mazow also notes the work of James Porter, an artist and art critic, in the Gottwald collection. Porter was the first historian of African American art during that time.

“That night was special to me,” explains Mazow. “I felt a sense of belonging with such a diverse group in every way. I enjoyed meeting new people and the enlightened appreciation with kindred spirits.”

To learn more about Canvas, please contact Sarah Hendricks at

Why Canvas?

Spotlight on Stephen Bonadies

Stephen Bonadies, Senior Deputy Director for Conservation and Collections, has a unique perspective on VMFA’s diverse permanent collection and the opportunities that Canvas provides. Why Canvas? “Canvas is a great vehicle for people to connect with a great institution. We want to engage a new generation of leaders as an institution and touch people throughout their lives.”

Bonadies’ extensive knowledge and passion for conservation helps ensure that each of the museum’s collections are preserved, accurately depicted, and available for all visitors to enjoy in the way they were meant to be displayed.

Conservation is a critical function of any art museum and requires deep expertise and understanding of many disciplines, including history and science. Bonadies began his education in Chemistry, but was inspired by a professor during his undergraduate studies to explore art conservation. After focusing his school work on these courses and spending a brief study abroad in Italy, Bonadies was hooked on conservation as a career. His career spans many years engaging in conservation work with museums in New York, Pennsylvania, and Ohio. Prior to joining VMFA in 2009, Bonadies spent 27 years at the Cincinnati Art Museum.

He has led the efforts on many collections since his arrival, including the reinstallation of the Fabergé Galleries in 2016. In addition to that project, Stephen highlighted the Worsham-Rockefeller Room as one of his favorites. “The entire room was packed in crates and we had to determine how to assemble it back together without ever seeing the original room,” he recalled. Bonadies led the 10-month project by engaging special experts such as architects, wood conservators, and paper conservators in order to accurately display the room. “We wanted the collection presented in a way that resonates with our visitors and allows them to step into the space.”

Bonadies spends his time with a wide array of collections and believes that being part of Canvas is a great way for people to explore the wide range of artwork inside VMFA.

To learn more about Canvas, please contact Sarah Hendricks at

Why Canvas?

Spotlight on Jennifer Schooley, Esq.

Thanks to an enduring passion for art, Jennifer Schooley played an integral part in forming our thriving community of art enthusiasts in the early 2000’s. Today, Jennifer serves as the Chair of the Canvas Advisory Board.

Why Canvas? Ms. Schooley explains, “Canvas members range from people whose curiosity about art is just beginning to people who have had a lifetime passion. This collection of people interacting together allows us all to grow. A newcomer’s comment may provoke a long-time art enthusiast to question their own perspective, allowing them both to develop a greater understanding of an artist’s motives or style.”

Canvas was the brainchild of former VMFA Director Michael Brand and his wife, Tina, who realized that the museum needed to address the interests of people in their 30’s and 40’s who were deeply interested in art and wanted something more than mere social programming. The group was initially called the Gallery Society, but soon changed its name to Canvas, an acronym for “ContemporarieS for Art iN VirginiA.” Through the years, membership has steadily increased as a result of highly successful programs such as artist’s talks, curator and scholar lectures, and private tours of corporate and personal collections.

Access to a collector’s art is one of the highlights of Ms. Schooley’s Canvas experience. A visit to the home of John and Julia Curtis in Williamsburg in 2002 was particularly memorable. After a short ride on a charter bus and a talk by John and Julia, the group was free to peruse the couple’s collection of Chinese porcelains and ceramics spanning several dynasties. “For me, this event really showed what a lifetime of collecting can create. It wasn’t necessarily about the specific style or period–although the pieces from the Han and Tang dynasties were unforgettable–but more the personal passion that these collectors demonstrated.”

Recently, the Canvas group had the pleasure of spending an evening in the amazing home of Ivan P. Jecklin, a member of VMFA’s Board of Trustees, and Allison P. Weinstein, both passionate collectors of contemporary photography. Ms. Schooley says, “I observed a number of guests who had never seen a collection of this caliber. I enjoyed watching the way people reacted to the art, particularly because I favor contemporary art myself. As with a dry red wine, some people have to grow to like it; but in this case there was an instant attraction.”

Ms. Schooley says that her professional life is enriched by art. As a trusts and estates lawyer, she has to be able to see and understand human relationships, feelings and emotions, in addition to knowing and advising on the law. In her mind, art is one of the most tangible, lasting expressions of that human emotion, and the relationships we have between one another and our society. Observing and analyzing art is another avenue to becoming a better counselor. She laughs as she says, “But I have to be satisfied with observing and appreciating it, because I certainly lack the talent to become a professional artist!”

To learn more about Canvas, please contact Sarah Hendricks at