The Fitchburg Art Museum is one of the most treasured cultural institutions in Central New England and serves the cities of Fitchburg and Leominster, as well as the surrounding communities in North Central Massachusetts and Southern New Hampshire. FAM was founded in 1925 through a bequest of artist, collector, and educator Eleanor Norcross. Its four-building complex, with over 20,000 square feet of exhibition space, features exhibitions from its art historical collections and special loan exhibitions focused on regional contemporary art. Collection strengths include American photography and general African art, including Ancient Egyptian art. The Egyptian collection is presented in an interactive gallery designed for families and school groups. In 2012, FAM began its rotating contemporary New England artist exhibition program, thus connecting the strength of its historical collections with contemporary art practices. Each rotating, contemporary exhibition is accompanied by an interactive educational exhibit in the Learning Lounge, where visitors young and old can learn about what they are seeing in the galleries and better understand their own reactions to the exhibits.
FAM is continuing to work towards a goal of becoming New England’s first fully bilingual (English/Spanish) art museum. Going forward, all new permanent collection displays, changing exhibitions, and associated in-gallery education spaces will be accompanied by bi-lingual educational texts and object labels. FAM has also hired a bilingual receptionist, and offers free admission to all its neighbors in Fitchburg’s Ward 4B, a predominantly Latino neighborhood. As FAM continues to build this program over the next few years, the Museum will seek to add bi-lingual printed collateral, website, social media, and docent tours. FAM is assisted in this effort by a local Latino Community Advisory Committee, and by the Cleghorn Neighborhood Association, the primary service organization for Fitchburg’s Latino and Latino Immigrant communities.
This Bilingual Museum Initiative stems from FAM’s goal to become one of this country’s best community museums. In Fitchburg, 39% of the current population is Latino (primarily from Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic, and Uruguay), and 55% of children enrolled in the Fitchburg Public Schools come from homes where Spanish is the primary language. This demographic is growing, and far exceeds both Massachusetts and national percentages for Latino population. The Fitchburg Art Museum intends to serve everyone in Fitchburg, and has embarked on the Bilingual Museum Initiative to provide cultural and educational enrichment to all.