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The Daily Tar Heel

Art collectors help Ackland grow

Shatzmans donated dozens of pieces

For Eunice and Herbert Shatzman, donating art is more than just a tax write-off.

The Shatzmans, both 83, have called Chapel Hill home since 1989. They have been donating art to the University’s Ackland Art Museum for nearly as long.

“Flowers from Earth and Sand,” the Ackland exhibit that closed this December, featured a large number of ceramic pieces from the Shatzmans’ collection.

But the couple’s passion began long before arriving in Chapel Hill. While living in Los Angeles decades ago, the couple became intrigued by collections of ceramic art.

“We were in San Francisco and were going through one of the stores that specialized in fine art,” said Eunice Shatzman. “It happened to be Chinese ceramics, and we just started with an interest in that.”

They also struck up a friendship with Sherman Lee, curator for the Cleveland Museum of Art in Ohio, before his death in 2008. It was Lee who introduced the Shatzmans to the Ackland in 1996.

“He would visit, look at the pieces, talk about them, and educate us as to what sort of things were valuable,” Eunice Shatzman said.

The Shatzmans moved to New York to explore new museums and art dealers on the east coast. There, they shifted from strictly Chinese ceramics to include things from the art nouveau period.

When they came to Chapel Hill in the late 1980s, the Shatzmans had to adjust to the small town.

“We missed having the opportunity for dealers in New York City,” Eunice Shatzman said.

But this hardly detained them from expanding their collection. Instead, they set out to find ceramic art native to North Carolina, traveling and meeting different artists throughout the region.

The Shatzmans’ ceramic collection has grown large over the years, filled with ceramics dating back to 5000 BC.

As their collection continued to expand, they donated many of their treasures to university museums, including UNC’s Ackland.

Ackland Director Emily Kass said that the show was prompted by the overlap between pieces owned by the Shatzmans and pieces already in the Ackland’s collection.

“(Ackland’s curator) Tim Riggs had visited the Shatzmans on numerous occasions over several years to see their growing collection of art nouveau ceramics, and had been thinking about how an exhibition might be configured,” Kass said.

The Shatzmans had an active role in helping the museum design the exhibition.

“Our participation centered upon matching glass from the art nouveau era with our ceramics,” Herbert Shatzman said. “They borrowed about fifty pieces from our collection and matched it with print and other things.”

The Shatzmans have also donated some of their pieces to other exhibits at the Ackland, including 1998’s Asian collection, Kass said.

“‘Flowers from Earth and Sand’ has inspired visitors to tell us that they think the show is ‘really gorgeous,’ ‘exquisite,’ ‘inspiring,’ and ‘extraordinary,’” said Emily Bowles, director of communications at the Ackland. “The comment book in the museum lobby has been full of superlatives.”

And for the Shatzmans, that’s what their art is all about.

“The important thing is, we wanted to share what was meaningful and beautiful for us so that others… would have the chance to appreciate it and develop tastes of their own,” Eunice Shatzman said.

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