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Great State of Minds: Slater Memorial Museum in Norwich

Conspicuously located on the campus of Norwich Free Academy lies an architectural marvel: the Slater Memorial Museum.

The museum was donated by William Albert Slater (a graduate of NFA) to honor his father John Fox Slater, a founding member of the school. The red brick masterpiece opened in 1884, bringing works of art to the public and students at NFA.

Vivian Zoe, the Director of the Slater Memorial Museum, gave us a tour and talked about the connection to the school.

“NFA serves ninth through twelfth grade so those are pretty much fourteen through eighteen year-olds and they are (as far as students are concerned) our largest audience," said Zoe.

Classes from NFA frequent the halls of the museum, enhancing their educational experience. Stepping inside, it feels like walking back in time, with perfectly preserved artwork and lightly creaking wood floors adding to the charm. Students just don’t admire the art on a tour, they get a hands-on experience. Classes are often held within the museum exhibits with students sketching the sculptures, or photographing the beauty in the room.

Sarah Lefrancois, a Digital Arts teacher at NFA, told us, “It’s really special to be able to ask the museum educators what we have in the collection and show these students primary documents and original pieces that they can then learn from and draw inspiration from.”

Much of the art work has a hometown connection, right here in Norwich. For more than a century, artists have looked to the area for inspiration with their paintings.

The partnership between the museum and NFA strives to educate and inspire the next generation of Norwich artists

Grace Beal, a senior at NFA, told us, “It’s incredible that you have the opportunity to be in person to see it and kinda walk around it and see it from different angles. It can really change your final outcome.”

The Slater Memorial Museum is open to the public and currently is hosting its 75th annual Connecticut Artists Juried Exhibition with pieces ranging from paintings by a 93 year old artist to a llama quilt and a 4 foot praying mantis. The show runs through mid-March.

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