Robert Petrarca '64 and his wife Marie pose in front of one of the many pieces of art they have donated to Bryant University
Robert Petrarca '64 (right) and his wife Marie have donated nearly 25 works of art to Bryant University over the years.
Gifts invite University community to appreciate fine art
Jul 24, 2020, by Staff Writer
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As members of the Bryant community move through the University’s library, classrooms, hallways, and offices, they are invited to pause and view the fine art on display. Recent gifts of art from two alumni have significantly enriched Bryant’s collection. 

During the University’s historic capital campaign, Expanding the World of Opportunity: The Campaign for Bryant’s Bold Future, Alfred Morris ’57 and his wife Joan donated three artworks from the Morris Family Collection. They are Spring Canyon, an oil on board painting by Ethel Magafan, a renowned American muralist; Green Forms, an oil on canvas by American abstract artist Louis Schanker; and Poppies, a modern piece by Ben Benn, a still life and landscape painter and early advocate of Cubism. The painting the couple donated during Bryant’s last campaign is currently displayed in the Krupp Library.

Poppies by Ben Benn
Poppies by Ben Benn, a gift to Bryant University
from Alfred Morris ’57 and his wife Joan.

A member of the Providence Art Club for more than 20 years, Morris also serves on the Acquisition Committee at Rhode Island School of Design. “People go through life with blinders on,” observes Morris, noting they often miss the opportunity to cultivate a different perspective. He is especially focused on helping Bryant students recognize and appreciate American fine art so they can be informed and enthusiastic collectors in the future. 

Robert Petrarca ’64 and his wife Marie have collected fine art for decades, primarily focused on American artists. Petrarca is drawn to the work of Harley Bartlett, a Rhode Island-based painter, muralist, and portraitist renowned for his evocative work. Petrarca appreciates the “high quality” of Bartlett’s work, particularly his realistic style, accurate perspective, and variety of subjects. 

In 2019, the Petrarcas donated three of Bartlett’s works to Bryant: Sailboat, Path by Lake, and Cow. Through the years, they have donated nearly 25 Harley Bartlett paintings that are displayed throughout the campus.

Petrarca, who was a long-time member of the Providence Art Club, has donated paintings to several Rhode Island hospitals and the Rhode Island Philharmonic Orchestra & Music School. He believes that paintings must be “absorbed” over time. “Whether students are interested in art or not, paintings can draw them in and intrigue them,” Petrarca explains. “It takes many times of viewing to really see and appreciate art.” 

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