Major bequest to establish scholarship fund at the Yale School of Art

The widow of Jack Stewart ’51 B.F.A. has established the Jack Stewart Scholarship Fund with a $1 million bequest intention.
Live figure drawing at Yale School of Art

Live figure drawing at Yale School of Art (Photo credit: Julia Char Gilbert)

After serving in the U.S. Army during World War II, Jack Stewart ’51 B.F.A. attended Yale University on the G.I. Bill, which provided federal education benefits to millions of veterans.

Stewart studied at the Yale School of Art under Josef Albers and William de Kooning, groundbreaking artists and teachers who were pivotal in modernizing the school’s curriculum. Stewart, who died in 2008, enjoyed a distinguished career as an artist, academic, and educator.

Today, his legacy will provide promising artists an opportunity to develop their talents and ideas, as he did, at the Yale School of Art. The Jack Stewart Scholarship Fund will provide financial aid to graduate students so they can pursue their careers after graduation unburdened by debt.

Stewart in his 14th Street studio in New York City circa the early 1960s
Stewart in his 14th Street studio in New York City circa the early 1960s (Photo credit: Ara Ignatious)

Established through a $1 million bequest intention by Stewart’s widow, the artist Regina Serniak Stewart, the scholarship fund will honor the late artist’s memory and recognize the profound influence of his Yale experience on his life and career.    

Financial aid is a critical priority for the School of Art and it is grateful to Regina Stewart for her major memorial bequest,” said Marta Kuzma, the Stavros Niarchos Foundation Dean of the Yale School of Art. “I know that recipients of the Jack Stewart Scholarship will take great pride knowing that their funding was provided in memory of an artist, a teacher, and a School of Art alumnus.”

In 2018–2019, 71% of the school’s graduate students received need-based financial aid. As the school celebrates its 150th anniversary, it aspires to expand its financial aid program to meet the full demonstrated financial needs of all its students. Stewart’s bequest provides powerful momentum toward this goal.

The bequest also contributes towards the broader school-wide goal of fostering critical and collective consciousness around social engagement and civic dialogue, she said, adding that the gift furthers the school’s drive to help graduate students develop their artistic practice amid current conditions of social and economic inequality.

A letter Stewart wrote to his mother dated Sept. 6, 1946 offers a sense of his excitement about studying at the School of Art and the inspiration he drew from his teachers and classmates:  

Mother you can’t imagine what it’s like living everyday with artists,” he wrote. “To talk, work, and think along the same lines. To be with people who feel and see the beauty about them and don’t hesitate to express that feeling …”

Jack Stewart at the Norfolk Art School in 1946
Stewart was invited by the Yale Art School to join the charter class of the summer art session at the Norfolk Art School. He wrote, "So in August of ’46 I went to the Norfolk Art School and studied landscape painting primarily and watercolor. I studied watercolor under Herbert Gute, a wonderful technician in watercolor. In the fall I went down to the main campus in New Haven.”

Stewart’s artwork resides in the permanent collections of many prominent museums, including the Yale University Art Gallery. He taught at major art schools, including The New School, the Pratt Institute, and Cooper Union, and he served as provost and vice president of the Rhode Island School of Design.

While an undergraduate, Stewart developed an interest in murals that led him to study architecture at Columbia University. These passions sparked a fascination with graffiti, which he explored through graduate study and research at New York University.

In 1989, Stewart published the definitive study of subway graffiti, “Subway Graffiti: An Aesthetic Study of Graffiti on the Subway System Of New York City, 1970-1978,” which was reorganized and republished in 2009 under the title “Graffiti Kings: New York City Mass Transit Art of the 1970s.”

Jack Stewart’s commitment to teaching and research alongside a concurrent and engaged artistic practice encapsulate the school’s belief that artists hold the power to engage with the communities in which we all live and work at the local, national, and international level,” Kuzma said.

Stewart’s bequest builds upon a 2018 gift to the School of Art from the Helen Frankenthaler Foundation, which created a Helen Frankenthaler Endowed Scholarship Fund. Together, these scholarships constitute a meaningful form of intergenerational support from artists for artists, said Kuzma.

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