Auburn alumnus establishes fund to collect work by Jewish artists

Published: October 06, 2022

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Through a major gift to Auburn University, the Jule Collins Smith Museum of Fine Art at Auburn University has established the Martin Moss Freeman ’77 Fund for Excellence in memory of Shirley and Dr. Alfred Freeman.

Administrators will use funds to acquire work by Jewish artists, and artists currently in the collection include Diane Arbus, Marc Chagall, Louise Nevelson and Ben Shahn. New acquisitions and more than 3,000 objects support the fluid exchange of ideas through exhibitions and collection studies by faculty and students.

“The Jule’s collection spans 16th to 21st centuries,” said Aaron Levi Garvey, the museum’s Janet L. Nolan Director of Curatorial Affairs. “As its stewards for our statewide constituents, we recognize gaps in representation. Because of great investments like Mr. Freeman’s, we ensure that Jewish artists’ vital contributions to the arts and humanities narrative are a significant part of student and faculty work at Auburn.”

Garvey added that the university collection currently features work by 18 Jewish artists, many of whom are deceased.

“A foundation of the collection includes works from Advancing American Art, a historical survey of modernists, many of whom were Jewish and immigrants,” he said. “The goal of this fund is to bolster the collection with living artists such as Paul Weiner, Rachel Libeskind and Talia Levitt, among others, but also those within the artist community and their respective careers who have made significant strides such as Eva Hesse, Judy Chicago and Sol Lewitt, to name but a few.”

Martin Moss Freeman hails from Miami Beach, Florida, where he grew up thinking all universities had art museums because of his regular visits to the University of Miami’s Lowe Art Museum. As an Auburn student, he was surprised to learn that there was no place on campus to exhibit the important Advancing American Art collection regularly. Today, he serves on the museum’s advisory board, as well as regularly participates in charitable giving at the university.

In addition to his family’s early exposure to museums through visitation and volunteerism, their influence extended to service and philanthropy in higher education during one’s lifetime to witness the difference that investments can make.

Shirley and Alfred Freeman made legacy gifts to their alma mater, Temple University, including contributions to the Schools of Education and Medicine. They believed strongly in education and that everything they became was an extension of their education.

“Martin Freeman’s generosity and service on our advisory board exemplify the example set by his beloved late parents,” said Cindi Malinick, executive director of Auburn’s museum. “By expanding the collection in this area, Auburn students receive a complete and well-rounded education, scholarly research is enhanced locally and nationally, and the collection’s reach extends far beyond our walls through loans and campus partnerships.”

Located on Auburn’s campus, the Jule Collins Smith Museum of Fine Art is the cultural heart of an Alabama public research institution serving students, faculty and the constituents of the Southeast. The university art collection includes works spanning the 16th to 21st centuries and is comprised of photographs, works on paper depicting the South, ceramics and Southern visionary art. For more, visit

Submitted by: Charlotte Hendrix

A piece of art.

This piece, titled “Hunger,” was painted by artist Ben Shahn (1898-1969) in 1948 and is part of the Advancing American Art Collection acquired by the Jule Smith Collins Museum of Fine Art at Auburn University through the 1948 Advancing American Art acquisition.