Someone once asked Daisy Wade Bridges the most important thing an art collector could have. Her response: “A total lack of self-control.”
Barbara Perry, former curator of decorative arts at the Mint Museum, recalled the story and laughed at Bridges’ wit: “She was an elegant and quiet woman – but with a wonderful sense of humor.”
After Bridges’ Oct. 14 death, Kathleen Jameson, the Mint’s president and CEO, emailed museum members. “No other individual has supported The Mint Museum's ceramics collection more than Daisy,” she wrote.
Bridges, 83, wasn’t just a benefactor – although her largesse is legendary. She was also a scholar. She knew as much as most trained curators, Jameson said.
Perry and Bridges met upon Perry’s 1999 arrival in Charlotte. “Daisy invited me to lunch and immediately offered to help fund an exhibition on American ceramics,” Perry said. “It was a curator’s dream – a windfall from heaven.”
The Mint had been getting such windfalls since the 1960s when Bridges brought M. Mellanay Delhom and her ceramics collection to the museum. Bridges was an early champion of North Carolina pottery and donated many pieces from her own collection to the Mint over a 50-year period. Largely because of Bridges, the Mint now has what Jameson calls “the most important collection of North Carolina pottery.”
Her legacy in Charlotte’s cultural sector has long been established. But she continued coming up with new ideas to share her love of ceramics. In recent years, she envisioned the Mint becoming a pottery research/resource center.
Now in the planning stages, the center would be housed at the Mint and will be a place academics and lay people can learn about pottery. “It won’t be locked away,” Jameson said. “Daisy’s vision was for this to be open – a place where anyone with an interest in pottery can come and learn.”
Bridges collected pottery her whole life. But she began divesting herself of some of her collection years before she and Perry met. Perry asked why she was willing to part with the pottery she loved.
Bridges said, “I used to own my collection, but then it felt like my collection was beginning to own me.”
Bridges once told Perry she had stopped collecting, once and for all.
“Really? When?” Perry asked.
Bridges’ witty response: “At 5 o’clock last night.”
This story was produced as part of the Charlotte Arts Journalism Alliance.