Auction honors late art professor

This year, the annual Spring Into Art silent auction at the Lowe Art Museum was not only a time to celebrate art, but also a time to celebrate life.

Seven years ago, University of Miami ceramics professor Christine Federighi and UM alumna and donor Myrna Palley created the event, which is attended by approximately 300 people each year.

“The art department used to have a little ceramics sale and she was looking for a way to raise money for the museum so we combined the ideas,” Palley said.

Federighi died in Nov. 2006 at age 57 after a 12-year battle with cancer. This year’s Spring Into Art, which took place on March 21, was dedicated to her memory.

Federighi taught at UM for 32 years and also established herself as a ceramicist and creator of collectible work.

“Christine was incredibly well-known and it was a great loss to the ceramics community,” said Bonnie Seeman, senior lecturer in the Department of Art and Art History.

In her three-decade-long career, Federighi’s work appeared in numerous exhibitions and galleries and won various awards. She also participated in workshops and lectures across the country.

Seeman, a close friend of Federighi’s, donated a ceramic piece for auction. As coordinator of the event, she was also responsible for finding other artists to donate work.

In past years, the event has mainly involved artists from the community donating their artwork.

“After they found out of her demise, artists from all over the country offered to donate artwork,” Palley said.

Spring Into Art also aims to showcase work by UM faculty and to give art students their first chance to display their work in public.

“During one of my last critiques with Christine, she said she’d like me to make a horse, so I did this in her memory,” said Shari McWilliams, a graduate art student who created a stoneware horse for the auction.

Tickets for Spring Into Art cost $150 per person. All members of the Lowe and other community members were invited.

At the event, patrons were assigned numbers which they write down along with their respective bids on clipboards placed next to each piece of art. The bids are closed out in three rounds and winners can pay and leave with their artwork at the end of the night, said Lisa Palley, who helped plan the event.

Proceeds from the event benefit the Lowe Art Museum, the Department of Art and Art History, the Francine and Lee Ruwitch Educational Endowment and the Christine Federighi Art Education Fund.

The fund was established after Federighi’s death to provide student artists with scholarships to attend workshops, summer programs, and other programs outside of the university.

“[The fund] will be always open for donations but the thrust of the foundation monies are going to come from the auction,” Palley said.

It is too soon to know how much money was raised at the event, said Brian Dursum, director and chief curator at the Lowe.

According to Palley, last year’s Spring Into Art and other fundraisers raised $60,00 for the Lowe, $18,000 for the Department of Art and Art History and $18,000 to the Ruwitch Educational Endowment.

Dursum noted the event’s organizers also found private sponsors from businesses and families around the community to fund the event including Wachovia Securities and Myrna and Sheldon Palley.

In a statement on her website, Seeman explains the inspiration for her artwork.

“I use plants, sea forms, and human anatomy to talk about life, disease, and the will to live,” she wrote.

“I have seen a special strength within people who are ill. There can be a new-found spirituality which only adds to inner strength and beauty.”

Stacey Weitz may be contacted at

March 27, 2007


The Miami Hurricane

Student newspaper at the University of Miami

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