Art museum donation

Jane Roughton Kearns wasn’t a student at the University of North Carolina, but her husband, Thomas Kearns Jr. graduated from the school in 1958. A legacy student, he played basketball for the school and apparently is still fiercely loyal. They sent three children to UNC, and in 2019, donated $3 million to endow a basketball scholarship.

Jane Kearns, who has enjoyed her husband’s fierce school loyalty, has her own passion in art.

“I was fortunate enough to be able to start collecting art,” she said in an interview with UNC’s campus newsletter. “It’s just something that is wonderful to live with and enjoy, and it enhances your life.” Kearn’s collection, housed in the couple’s Connecticut apartment, is extensive.

In a recent announcement, it was revealed that Kearns will be donating three American modernist paintings to UNC’s Ackland Art Museum.

Two of the paintings are by artist Joan Mitchell, a mid-century abstract expressionist whose work has iconified women’s contributions to expressionism both in the U.S. and Europe. Heavily inspired by Van Gogh, her chaotic works sell at auction for millions of dollars. One of her paintings, Blueberry, set a record for a single sale at Christie’s auction-house in 2018 when it sold for $16.6 million.

The third painting is a work by Milton Avery, an American modern painter whose career began in the 1920s. Critics of the era called him the greatest colorist of the American art world.

Together, the three paintings have been assessed to be worth $12.1 million.

“Any museum that collects in this time period would be delighted to have these works. They are of that high quality and that distinguished,” said Katie Ziglar, the director of the Ackland Art Museum in an interview with a local paper.

The Ackland already has 10 of Avery’s other works, and is thrilled to have a growing collection. These will be their first works by Mitchell.

Editorial credit: Fernando Cruz /