Garman Family Gives Art Conservation Department $4 Million

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Buffalo State College has received a $4 million gift from the Richard E. and Patricia H. Garman family of Western New York to support the college’s distinguished Art Conservation Department.

The family’s gift marks the largest one-time gift to Buffalo State and will result in continuous support for students who enter this competitive graduate program, one of only four such art conservation programs in the country.

“This magnanimous donation is transformational for it further strengthens the department’s firm foundation established by previous directors, faculty, and alumni, and makes our future really bright,” said Patrick Ravines, director of art conservation. “The gift will allow us to offer fellowships to the most talented individuals across the country interested in pursuing art conservation careers. It also will enable us to provide exceptional faculty and outstanding learning opportunities for our students. We are extremely grateful to the Garmans.”

Richard Garman is the former president and CEO of Buffalo Crushed Stone and ABC Paving Company. In the past he served as chairman of the board for the Buffalo Niagara Partnership and president of the Associated General Contractors of New York State.

Patricia Garman, who passed away in January 2014, taught psychiatric nursing at D’Youville College and operated a private practice. She also was recognized as a leader by many cultural and community organizations. The couple has three grown daughters who live in East Aurora, New York.

“The Art Conservation Department at Buffalo State College is one of the most advanced and professional in the country, and these characteristics were quickly recognized by the Garman family as they developed a relationship with SUNY faculty and students in recent years,” said SUNY Chancellor Nancy L. Zimpher. “Congratulations to President Conway-Turner and the entire Buffalo State College community on this extraordinary gift, which will provide students with increased access to the college’s internationally recognized art conservation graduate program."

The college will rename the department the Patricia and Richard Garman Art Conservation Department, pending official approval by the State University of New York (SUNY) Board of Trustees and the Buffalo State College Council.

“I sincerely appreciate the impact of this gift for our art conservation program. It is acts of generosity such as this one that make me so grateful to live in Buffalo and work at Buffalo State,” said Buffalo State President Katherine Conway-Turner. “When members of the community, such as the Garmans, recognize the important work that our faculty and students pursue on a daily basis, I feel like we are achieving our objective as an institution.”

Patricia Garman first became acquainted with the art conservation program several years ago when she was invited to meet the professors and students in the disciplines of painting, sculpture, paper, and objects and see a demonstration of their work.

Since that introduction, she and her husband brought two pieces of art from their personal collection to the department for conservation treatment. One piece was a sculpture of a horse the family had shipped from Florida to Buffalo that arrived with broken legs.

“Obviously, my mom was devastated,” said daughter Melissa Garman Baumgart. “They reached out to the Art Conservation Department to see what they could do. Not only did the students repair it, but they gave us the whole history of the sculpture. You would never know by looking at it today that it ever had been damaged.”

Their interaction with the department inspired the couple to establish a student fellowship and this led to an ongoing relationship with the department.

“What made the biggest impression on all of us is that we have this incredible hidden gem right in our backyard,” Baumgart said. “To me, it’s the best kept secret in Western New York.”

An institution that is actively working to maintain art for future generations seemed like the perfect recipient for this gift, Baumgart said.

“I can’t express the level of gratitude we have for the Garman family,” said Susanne Bair, Buffalo State’s vice president for institutional advancement. “Mr. and Mrs. Garman had a deep understanding of the importance of preserving our cultural heritage. They recognized the depth and breadth of our art conservation program and the kind of work our graduates go on to do.”

The Garman gift completes a challenge grant established by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. In the summer of 2014, the foundation awarded the art conservation program with a $1.25 million challenge grant, which required the college to raise an additional $750,000 by June 2017. 

About the Buffalo State Art Conservation Department
Founded in 1970, the Art Conservation Department currently has seven full-time faculty members who specialize in the areas of paintings, historical objects, textiles, ceramics, photographs, rare books, manuscripts, and maps. The department is recognized internationally as a center of excellence in the conservation of fine art, cultural heritage, and historic objects.

Art Conservation Department alumni are employed by major institutions across the country including the National Gallery of Art and the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C., the Brooklyn Museum, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Museum of Modern Art in New York, the Art Institute of Chicago, the Getty Museum, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, and the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art.

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