Longtime Arts Supporter Leaves $233,765 to Sweeney Art Gallery

Bequest from patron Tilda Fagin will help ensure UC Riverside gallery’s future

Art exhibition showing space exploration

Installation view of “Free Enterprise: The Art of Citizen Space Exploration” at UCR ARTSblock, on view through May 18. Photo courtesy of UCR ARTSblock

RIVERSIDE, Calif. — In life, Matilda “Tilda” Fagin was an elegant and ardent supporter of the arts, particularly at UC Riverside’s Sweeney Art Gallery, and her bequest of $233,765 will help ensure that the gallery can celebrate its 50th anniversary in style this year, and in the years that follow.

Fagin died on Jan. 16, 2012, three days shy of her 90th birthday. She and her late husband, Harold, were early, strong supporters of UC Riverside, but her particular focus was on the art gallery.

“I remember being so impressed that Tilda would make the extra effort to come to ARTSblock’s Sweeney Art Gallery opening receptions,” said gallery Director Tyler Stallings. “Her bequest will provide a financial cushion in a time when underwriting for the arts is highly competitive due to the country’s recession. The funds will allow the gallery to continue with its already established adventurous programming, like the ‘Free Enterprise: The Art of Citizen Space Exploration,’ which is on exhibit now.”

Adventurous programming is exactly what Fagin wanted to see continue, said longtime friend John “Terry” Mylne. He and his wife, Bonnie Jean “BJ” Mylne, knew the Fagins for nearly 40 years.

“She had art in her constitution and really felt strongly about the things that were being done at UCR in the area of the arts, particularly at the Sweeney Art Gallery,” Mylne said. “She admired the people who were there, and wanted to see that it was nurtured and prospered.”

Fagin and her husband never had children of their own, but still had a strong affiliation with young people, particularly teenagers, Mylne said.

“She nurtured our three children; they were her children, too,” he said. “She admired the artistry in youngsters. She enjoyed talking to them about their art, and what it meant to them. It made it personal for her.”

The Fagins were longtime philanthropists, active in establishing Riverside Community Hospital, where Tilda served as a Pink Lady for 25 years, said Tony Truong, director of gift planning in UCR’s Development Office. Fagin was also a member of UC Riverside’s Watkins Society, but the Sweeney Art Gallery was her passion, he said. “She just had a special interest in art, and making sure there’s always a place for it at the university.”

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