Milton J. Bloch, former president of Munson-Williams-Proctor Arts Institute (MWPAI), died in his home in Charlotte, NC last week. He was 74.
Bloch, an artist, author, administrator, educator and philanthropist, served as president of MWPAI from January 1991 through December 2008. During his tenure he led the Institute through the largest period of growth in its more than 80-year history. By investing in excess of $25 million, he doubled the size of the campus which led to the renovation of the west side community.
MWPAI President Anthony Spiridigloizzi, who served 18 years as vice president with Bloch, said Bloch’s leadership forever changed MWPAI. “He was more than a ‘boss.’ He was a mentor and an inspiration,” he said. “He treated everyone with respect; there were no ideas that he didn’t consider valuable. He was a decent man who made a positive difference.””
Expansion and growth projects under Bloch’s tenure were numerous. Major accomplishments included: renovating the Museum of Art Interior; constructing an education wing connecting the Museum of Art building with Fountain Elms which also includes an underground storage facility to house the Museum’s collection; and revamping the former Fleet bank building on Genesee Street into a modern dance studio.
Bloch also initiated two major exhibitions, “Splendors of the New World,” which opened in 1992 and the inaugural American tour of “Soul of Africa: African Art from the Han Coray Collection” in 1998.
In 1999, he was instrumental in the creation of PrattMWP, a joint venture between MWPAI and Pratt Institute. This initiative included the construction of a new school of art studio building, student center, dormitories and library/academic building
Spiridigloizzi added that the physical changes were only a small part of Bloch’s legacy and that his greatest achievement was how he changed the working atmosphere for the Institute. “He opened everything up for the staff. He valued everyone and never turned anyone away. He loved hearing new ideas and allowed everyone to participate in decision making,” he said.
In 1998, MWPAI received the Governor’s Award for Excellence in the Arts; and in 2002, received the Outstanding Upstate Arts Organization award presented by the Alliance for NY State Arts Organizations. In 2002 Bloch received the Humanitarian of the Year award from the American Lung Association.
Upon his appointment, Bloch pledged a complete immersion in the Institute and the community-at-large. During his tenure he advised and assisted more than 50 area organizations including The Utica Symphony, Sculpture Space, JCTOD, GroWest, the City of Utica, Village of New Hartford and the Oneida County Historical Society. He has served as President of the Boards of Trustees for Faxton-St. Lukes Healthcare and The Community Foundation of Herkimer Oneida Counties.
“There are many organizations that were fortunate to benefit from his experience and willingness to devote his time to others,” Spiridigloizzi said. “He was a decent man who made a positive difference.”
Bloch was a graduate of Pratt Institute in New York City with a degree in industrial design. He also has a Masters of Fine Arts from the University of Florida. After graduation, he became head of the art department in a community college in central Florida, and then director of the Pensacola Art Center in Pensacola, Florida. He has held positions as director of the Museum of Science and History in Little Rock, Arkansas, director of the Monmouth Museum in Lincroft, New Jersey, and for 14 years was executive director of the Mint Museum of Art in Charlotte, North Carolina.
Bloch is survived by his wife, Mary Karen Vellines, daughters Kimberly Laakso and Farrell Hudzik, brother J. Stanley Bloch, and four grandchildren.
Donations may be made to the Mint Museum, 500 S. Tryon St., Charlotte, NC and the Munson-Williams-Proctor Arts Institute, 310 Genesee St., Utica, N.Y. 13502.