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Studio Dedication Honors Founders of Art Conservation Department

Posted: October 29, 2014

An anonymous donor, with the support of the Nord Family Foundation and Buffalo State Art Conservation alumni, recently established a $100,000 endowment to support graduate student fellowships in the college’s Art Conservation Department in honor of the late Sheldon and Caroline Keck, founders of the program.

To recognize the Kecks’ immense contributions, the college held a dedication ceremony and reception on September 4 to formally name the Sheldon and Caroline Keck Paintings Conservation Studio on the second floor of Rockwell Hall. View a photo gallery of the naming ceremony.

During the ceremony, Buffalo State President Katherine S. Conway-Turner spoke along with Susanne Bair, vice president for institutional advancement; Benjamin Christy, dean of the School of Arts and Humanities; and Patrick Ravines, director of art conservation. Bair read from a letter received from conservation program alumna Dorothy Lawson, who was not able to attend the dedication but provided a gift to coincide with it.

"Had it not been for the program, I would not have met my husband and my life would not have been the magic that it has become," Lawson wrote. "We made a good team for 36 years and no matter what else we did, we were always in conservation mode...Caroline was especially good to me. While I was doing my internship, she once sent me a check for no good reason with the stipulation that I 'spend it foolishly' (I bought a small TV.). I want to give back so that someone else can be helped. I have thought of this for several years and this is the perfect occasion."

Sheldon Keck founded the first Conservation Center of the Institute of Fine Arts at New York University in 1961. In 1970, under the auspices of the State University of New York College at Oneonta, Cooperstown Graduate Programs, Keck and his wife, fellow conservator, Caroline, established the program known as Conservation of Historic and Artistic Works, which later moved to Buffalo State. It has evolved into a highly competitive graduate program that only accepts 10 students a year.

Three members of the art conservation faculty—James Hamm, Jonathan Thornton, and Judith Walsh—trained at Cooperstown with the Kecks.

The couple was instrumental in converting the centuries-old craft of art restoration into a profession based on scientific research, the use of modern technology, and adherence to shared methodological standards.

"It is quite meaningful to have a studio named in honor of this highly regarded couple who had the talent and foresight to start the art conservation program," Ravines said. "Our students owe their education to them."

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