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Benjamin L. Wigfall Artist Archives and Mary Carter Wigfall Personal Papers

Identifier: VA-12

Scope and Contents

The collection's inclusive dates are 1880-2023, with the bulk of the material dating from the 1940s-1970s. The collection is comprised of correspondence, ephemera, publications, prints, slides, woodblocks, metal plates, photographs, certificates, financial documents, and more related to the life and work of both Benjamin L. Wigfall and Mary C. Wigfall.


  • Creation: 1880-2023


Conditions Governing Access

The collection is open for research.

Conditions Governing Use

The collection is subject to all copyright laws. VMFA has been granted a non-exclusive license to reproduce the collection only for their educational and publicity purposes by the Benjamin Wigfall Estate. Other digitized content is licensed for use under a Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial 4.0 International License.

Transmission or reproduction of materials protected by copyright, beyond that allowed by fair use, requires the researcher to obtain permission of copyright holders.

Biographical / Historical

Benjamin Leroy Wigfall was born on November 17th, 1930 in Richmond, VA to parents James Andrew and Willie Cogena Wigfall. Wigfall attended the segregated George Mason Elementary School in Richmond until 1944, and moved to Armstrong High School (also segregated) for his secondary education until 1948. Armstrong High School is where Wigfall began to grow artistically, with the help of his senior-year art teacher, Stafford W. Evans, who introduced him to the VMFA. After high school, Wigfall attended Hampton Institute (now University) in 1948, taking part of his first year for a medical leave of absence due to his epilepsy.

After receiving his Bachelor in Art Education from Hampton Institute in 1953, Wigfall transferred to Yale University in order to continue his graduate studies in 1954. During this time, he also took another leave of absence to teach at Hampton Institute as an Art Educator. Wigfall re-entered Yale in 1958, and finished with his Master of Fine Arts from Yale University's Department of Design.

Wigfall went on to found both Communications Village Ltd., a community arts center in Kingston, NY, and the Watermark/Cargo Gallery, a contemporary and African art gallery also in Kingston, New York.


21.875 Linear Feet (50 boxes; 63 folders)

Language of Materials



The collection documents the life and work of Benjamin L. Wigfall, African American abstract expressionist artist. Benjamin L. Wigfall was the second African American artist to have a painting aquired by the VMFA, as well as the youngest ever artist to do the same. In addition to his work as an artist, Wigfall also taught and mentored in both Virginia at Hampton Institute, as well as New York at SUNY New Paltz and in his own community. Additionally, the collection contains documents related to the life and career of artist and educator, Mary Carter Wigfall, Benjamin L. Wigfall's wife. Mary C. Wigfall founded and directed the Migrant Childcare Center in New York from the early 1970s until her retirement in 1992.


The collection is organized into 10 series, and items are generally arranged chronologically within each series. Items with no date are generally placed at the end at each series.

Series 1
Benjamin L. Wigfall, 1944-2023
Series 2
Mary Carter Wigfall, 1949-2017
Series 3
Wigfall Family Records, 1944-2014
Series 4
Communications Village, 1880-1980
Series 5
Watermark/Cargo Gallery, 1969-2004
Series 6
Migrant Children's Center, 1965-1999
Series 7
New York, 1917-2018
Series 8
Art and Printmaking, 1951-1993
Series 9
Photography Projects - Communications Village, 1970s-2000s
Series 10
Other Artists and Friends, 1949-2020

Custodial History

The collection was donated by the artist's estate in December 2022. It was packed at Wigfall's home and studio in New Paltz, New York in September 2022.

Processing Information

In 2021, the museum was awarded a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities to fund 9 months of work for a graduate level intern during the 2022-2023 academic year. From October 2022 to June 2023, Nuelle Johnson performed all of the processing, description, rehousing and select digitization for the collection.

Item-level cataloging completed by Nuelle Johnson will continue to be added and updated in ArchivesSpace by Assistant Archivist Emily Johnson.

Finding Aids to Special Collections of the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts in the VMFA Archives | Benjamin L. Wigfall Artist Archives and Mary Carter Wigfall Personal Papers
Virginia Artist Archives 12 (VA-12)
In Progress
Nuelle Johnson, NEH Archives Intern
Language of description
Script of description
Code for undetermined script

Repository Details

Part of the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts Archives Repository

Margaret R. and Robert M. Freeman Library
200 N. Arthur Ashe Boulevard
Richmond VA 23220-4007 United States