VCU commemorates fine arts building in honor of former dean Murry N. DePillars

On Sept. 30, 2021, the university held a commemoration ceremony to honor the legacy of former dean, Murry N. DePillars, Ph.D., and celebrate the naming of the fine arts building at 1000 W. Broad St. in his name.

The event highlighted DePillar’s role in growing the size and reputation of the School of the Arts during his nearly 20-year tenure as dean, and represents an ongoing commitment to recognize his contributions as an artist, art historian and educator. 

Speakers included: Mary DePillars, wife of Dr. DePillars; Michael Rao, Ph.D., president of VCU and VCU Health; and Carmenita Higginbotham, Ph.D., dean of VCUarts.

“He did not create work with the intention of adorning galleries and elite spaces,” Higginbotham said in her remarks. “Rather, through his paintings, he wanted to expand minds and challenge viewers to open up to new ways of thinking.

“With that in mind, I am especially proud to see Dr. DePillars’ name on a building where our students and faculty gather to inspire one another and develop their creative expression.”

Mary DePillars, wife of Murry N. DePillars, Ph.D., gives her remarks at the commemoration event.

Inside the DePillars Building, an exhibition of Dr. DePillars’ work offered a look at how he wove together American social themes and aspects of African heritage in visually spellbinding and painstakingly executed compositions. The exhibition featured 12 works spanning 40 years – each selected by Mrs. Mary DePillars and Richard Woodward, founding curator of African Art at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts. 

The commemoration concluded with a ceremonial unveiling of the building’s new signage as many of DePillars’ friends, colleagues and former students looked on.

“[He opened] new paths for all students to develop their minds, to think outside the confines of society in general, to test and address cultural norms through their art and to address social injustices in peaceful, profound and constructive ways,” Mary DePillars said in her remarks just before the unveiling. “Dignity and respect are adjectives that are consistently used to define so much of Murry’s life.”