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