The Ridderhof Martin Gallery was named for Phyllis Ridderhof Martin. Mrs. Phyllis Ridderhof Martin graduated from UCLA, but relocated to Virginia to be near her family, bringing her love of the fine arts to the Fredericksburg area.[1. “Ridderhof Martin Museum,” A Walk through Time: Celebrating 100, http://museum.umwhisp.org/index.php?id=173.] Despite not going to UMW herself, Mrs. Martin’s son, daughter-in-law, and grandson attended the university. Her relationship with Art Professor Joseph Di Bella cemented the artist’s connection to the school.[2. William B. Crawley Jr., University of Mary Washington: A Centennial History, 1908-2008 (Fredericksburg, VA: University of Mary Washington Foundation, 2008), 376.] After being made aware of the university’s need for a permanent gallery space, Mrs. Martin donated over $500,000 to the cause and the university named the new gallery for her.[3. Crawley, 375.] She was part of the groundbreaking ceremony and saw the opening of the gallery she so believed in, but passed away shortly thereafter in 1993.[4. Eileen Mead, “Plenty of Room and Light for an Artist’s California Dreamin’,” The Free Lance-Star, March 12, 1994, Section 2.]
Ridderhof Martin Gallery was founded in 1992. [5. “UMW Galleries,” University of Mary Washington, http://galleries.umw.edu/about-us/.] The Art Department at the University of Mary Washington has a memorable history of art exhibitions, starting with the first art show in 1956. [6. Crawley, 572.] However, by the 1990s, the school’s permanent art collection was in need of attention. As part of the project to reinvigorate the collection, the department opened the Ridderhof Martin Gallery in April 1992. Justly, the gallery’s first show was a showcase of the building’s namesake, Phyllis Ridderhof Martin. [7. Crawley, 376.] Since then, the gallery has hosted events such as a 1998 Goya exhibition, “Leonardo da Vinci: Artist, Scientist, Engineer” in 2002, and a show called “Reflections on American Slavery” in 2004, in conjunction with a museum proposed for the Fredericksburg area.[8. Crawley, 574.] Today, the gallery houses one of the school’s permanent collection and seasonal art exhibitions.