With a gift of $500,000 from the Prashant H Fadia Foundation and the Deshpande Foundation, the Peabody Essex Museum in Salem, Massachusetts, has almost tripled its existing gallery space for traditional Indian art.
The expanded gallery, named the Prashant H Fadia Foundation and Deshpande Foundation Gallery of Indian Art, was opened to the public with an exhibition titled Of Gods and Mortals: Traditional Art from India, July 15.
The dedication of the gallery was held at a private function recently attended by the Fadia and Deshpande families, both of whom are tech industry stalwarts and prominent community leaders.
One of the first galleries of South Asian art to be named by members of the Indian-American community, the dedication marks an important step in this community's involvement in the arts.
'It is my great pleasure and honor to be associated with such a prestigious museum in the New England Area,' Saloni Fadia, wife of the late Prashant H Fadia and CEO of the Abacus Software Group, said.
'I'm a techie. I don't know much about art. I had to come to Salem to learn more about art,' Gururaj ('Desh') Deshpande, co-founder of Sycamore networks, said.
About 300 guests, including India's Consul General in New York Neelam Deo, were present at the opening.
The inaugural exhibition, organised by Curator of South Asian and Korean Art Susan Bean, features a collection of fine portraits, rare embroideries and South Indian devotional images, and explores Indian art from the late 18th century to the present. Deshpande and his wife Jaishree were especially touched by Dr Bean's intimate knowledge of art from their hometown of Bangalore.
The dedication ceremony was also an occasion for guests to remember the late Fadia, who died last year at the age of 52. He was an enthusiastic PEM contributor for many years, and served as a member of the Board of Overseers, the Corporate Outreach Program and the Asian Art Visiting Committee.
'Combined with the museum's contemporary and modern Indian art gallery, the new galleries enable the public to view an unrivaled presentation of Indian art from colonial times to the present. We are deeply indebted to Desh and Jaishree Deshpande and to Prashant and Saloni Fadia. We are also pleased that these new galleries serve as a testament and remembrance of Prashant Fadia,' Dan Monroe, executive director and CEO of the Peabody Essex Museum, said.
'By forging partnerships in the South Asian community and with distinguished cultural institutions such as the Peabody Essex Museum, we achieve a common goal of raising awareness of the richness and beauty of Indian art. This gallery was one of Prashant's cherished commitments to the community, and I am deeply gratified to see it fulfilled,' Saloni Fadia said.
'Jai shree and I are delighted that the Peabody Essex Museum has a passionate and genuine interest in the art of India. We feel honored to be a part of their effort,' Gururaj 'Desh' Deshpandeb said.
'This gift is such a significant step,' added Susan Bean. 'By supporting the museum, members of the Indian community are establishing their place among many cultural heritages in the United States and extending their reach of Indian culture in this country. This gift serves as an important role model for cultural philanthropy.'
The Prashant H Fadia Foundation was established in 1998 in Boston with a focus on art, technology, health, and the environment. The foundation supported two major publications at the Peabody Essex Museum: 'Yankee India: Commercial and Cultural Encounters with India in the Age of Sail' written by Susan Bean; and 'Furniture from British India and Ceylon: A Catalogue of the Collections in the Victoria and Albert Museum and the Peabody Essex Museum' by Dr Amin Jaffer with contributions from Karina Corrigan, PEM's associate curator of Asian export art.
It has provided funding for research in neuroscience; supported a number of charities in India including an orphanage in Orissa, and created an art gallery in India built with recycled, environmentally-friendly materials.
The Deshpande Foundation, the family foundation of Desh and Jaishree Deshpande, is focused on innovation in social development, and providing grants to non-profit and non-governmental organisations in the United States and India that empower people to participate in the global economy. It uses innovation as means of creating opportunities and solving problems, and improving the quality of life in Northern Karnataka with a specific emphasis on the Hubli-Dharwad region.
The Foundation has provided a major grant in the United States to MIT for the Deshpande Center for Technological Innovation, and provided grants in India to the Indian Institute of Technology; the Ashaya Patra Foundation; and to a host of NGOs based in Karnataka working in education, environment and health.
The Peabody Essex Museum is a pioneer in collecting and presenting Indian art; it began acquiring art from the area soon after its founding in 1799, and today has a total collection of 1.4 million works that include over 4,500 art objects from India. In 2006, PEM was named one of the nation's 'Top 10 Art Museums for kids by Child magazine.