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Syracuse University Art Museum Announces Multifaceted Gift from Artists Luise and Morton Kaish

The Syracuse University Art Museum today announced a major gift from artists and Syracuse University alumni Luise ’46, G’51 and Morton ’49 Kaish. The gift establishes the Luise and Morton Kaish Gallery Endowed Fund and creates the Kaish Fellows program. The new Fellows program will provide funding to enable undergraduate students from every discipline to undertake original research on the permanent art collection and to work with Museum staff on exhibitions, scholarly publications, and public programming. The philanthropic gift to support undergraduate research at Syracuse University is unique as few programs such as this are available for undergraduate level students at peer academic museums. The Fellows program also continues the dedication of the University resources and staff to support research and creative work by current and future students. The first Kaish Fellow will be appointed by the Museum in Fall 2021.

The gift also includes the naming of a Museum gallery as well as a selection of artworks by Luise and Morton Kaish, which will enter the permanent collection. Both artists are currently represented in the collection.

“We are so grateful to Morton and Melissa for their deeply meaningful and impactful gift,” said Vanja Malloy, Museum director and chief curator. “The endowment will enable students to experience firsthand the power of art to act as a catalyst that transcends – and sometimes subverts – boundaries. Luise explored that power throughout her career as an artist and educator. As an institution fostering exchange and knowledge-building, the gift will provide opportunities for students to experiement, innovate, and produce new scholarship. Supporting the University’s Forever Orange Campaign, the gift will also broaden the Museum’s academic program. The Kaishs’ generosity and legacy will fuel a new, expanded vision for the Museum, our campus communities, and beyond.”

Luise (1925–2013) and Morton Kaish (b. 1927) are nationally recognized artists whose artwork is held by some of the world’s most prestigious museums, including the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Smithsonian American Art Museum, Jewish Museum, and the British Museum. “Luise was lauded in her day by Harold Rosenberg, John Canaday, and other influential critics, and she exhibited at the Museum of Modern Art, Sculpture Center, Whitney Museum of American Art, among other leading institutions, including a retrospective at the Jewish Museum in 1973,” said Maura Reilly, curator of Luise’s forthcoming retrospective. “Morton has been equally prolific and successful, with a celebrated career as a widely exhibited and respected painter,” Reilly continued, noting also that the Louise and Bernard Palitz Gallery at Syracuse University’s Lubin House, located in New York City, will present an important exhibition of his prints spanning seven decades in Fall 2021.

The University’s longstanding commitment to interdisciplinary research and campus-wide curriculum integration resonated with their time as students. Their wide-ranging academic experiences benefited from a variety of viewpoints and pursuits. This pedagogical grounding influenced the Kaishs’ artistic practices and creative output both as students in the School of Art and throughout their lives.

Their daughter, Melissa Kaish Dorfman, recalls being surrounded by scholars, composers, writers, and architects who were part of her parent’s social and intellectual circles while she was growing up. “The arts must not be siloed,” she said. “Multidisciplinary experiences enrich the artist’s world view. My parents helped me listen to the world with my eyes. They encouraged me to learn not just by looking, but to see new levels of understanding—how art draws upon science, philosophy, politics, religion, music, nature. Replicating that type of fertile, dynamic environment for liberal art students is a goal that my father and I envision will be supported through this gift.”

About the Syracuse University Art Museum
The Syracuse University Art Museum is the campus art museum of Syracuse University. It strives to be a place of rigorous interdisciplinary research, creative thinking, and mindfulness, as well as an inclusive space that serves as a forum for a broad range of discussions that bring people together, uniting the wider community with students, faculty, and staff. A partner of Syracuse University’s Coalition of Museum and Art Centers, the Museum presents up to 20 exhibitions annually, scores of public programs, and an active schedule of class visits. It also manages the Palitz Gallery at the Syracuse University Lubin House in New York City where up to six exhibitions a year are presented. The Museum’s permanent collection of 45,000 artworks from 3500 BCE to present day includes important holdings from many areas of the world. Over the past 35 years, the Museum has shared much of its art collection with peer institutions across the country through its traveling exhibition program.

Luise Kaish sculpting Morton Kaish bust at Syracuse University, 1949