Fred Lazarus IV helps MICA and Maril
bury the hatchet from $15 graduation slight in 1928
Fred Lazarus IV
helps MICA and Maril
bury the hatchet
from $15 graduation
slight in 1928
In the midst of my first opportunity to spend time with Fred Lazarus IV and get to know him a little bit, the conversation took on a surprising shift in topics.
“I’m curious about something,” said Lazarus, who had been president of the Maryland Institute College of Art since 1978, as he were finishing up lunch.
“Was there someone at MICA your father didn’t like or was there a reason he never seemed to have anything to do with the school since I’ve been here?”
The purpose of his 2012 luncheon visit to the home of my father’s Baltimore studio was to explore gifting an appropriate painting to MICA and discuss other connections and projects that could be developed between the Herman Maril Foundation and the college.
I had met him only briefly a couple of times. Once was at the opening of my father’s Centennial birthday exhibition in 2009 at the Walter’s Museum. He seemed to be a gracious, genuine and focused individual who was interested in my father’s career.
I was determined, after that encounter, to schedule a visit when we’d have time to discuss becoming more closely connected with MICA.
Lazarus, who had been responsible for MICA’s enrollment more than doubling during his 35 years in office, had good reason to wonder if there has been a feud or rift that existed between my father, who graduated from MICA in 1928, and the school.
Despite being very active in the Baltimore art scene, having over 50 one-man exhibitions around the country, and strong teaching relationships with a number of different universities and museums, there are only a couple of short references to MICA, after his graduation, in our Herman Maril archive files. And those only occurred when he was lending a painting for one of their group exhibitions.
I did eventually learn the reason my father had not been an active alumnus with MICA . Even though I had never heard him talk about it, my mother, the late Esta Maril, had explained, a few years after his death in 1986, why he had kept such a distance from his alma mater.
Since we were formally burying the hatchet with MICA and starting a fresh relationship, it was appropriate to explain what had transpired, back in 1928, to Lazarus.
My father, the youngest of six children in a poor Baltimore family, had worked diligently to make ends meet while attending Baltimore Polytechnic Institute and MICA. To earn money for art supplies, tuition and living expenses, he held a number of part-time jobs, which included custodian work, lettering and sign painting.
However, as graduation approached, when he still owed a sum of around $10 or $15 on his tuition at MICA, the college would not let him participate in the closing ceremonies. Although I never heard him criticize MICA over the slight of his parents not being allowed to formally see him graduate, he maintained only a distant relationship with the art school for the rest of his life.
“That’s amazing,” Lazarus said. “Something like that would never happen today if a student owed that type of sum today. There are so many ways that sort of thing can be covered. It’s too bad. I didn’t know anything about that story.”
Timing is everything and the Herman Maril Foundation was fortunate to create several
long-term projects with Lazurus’ help before he retired in 2014.
We launched our MICA relationship by donating, in 2013, the Herman Maril painting “Palette And Self Portrait,” a 40 x 50 inch oil painted in 1981, now permanently displayed on campus in the of the H.B. Latrobe House.
Last year, we initiated a spring internship program which has MICA students assisting in a number of tasks relating to archival research, art conservation, exhibition installation, photography, and computer work.
Our foundation sponsored the Herman Maril ’28 Legacy Lecture series, bringing in artists, art historians and other figures in the art world to speak and spend the day at the college.
I’m certain my father, who was a principled and open-minded individual, would approve of moving on and getting reconnected with MICA after all these years.
He had the ability to put difficult situations in the proper perspective.
I remember on several occasions when public criticism would be leveled against the policies and administrative leadership of particular museums, he would urge them to continue their memberships and emphasize these people running the institutions come and go but the art remains, and that’s what is important.
I also know he would have been pleased and proud of MICA’s growth and impact in the art world and the Baltimore community under Lazarus’ leadership.