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William Michael Vareika

William Michael Vareika

~ Inducted 2017

Historian and philan- thropist, William Vareika exemplifies the art of giving. Raised in Brockton, Massachusetts, Vareika had every intention of becoming a lawyer. In the Fall of 1971, the political science major took a class in 19th-century art mainly to fulfill a school requirement. One day, he slipped into Bostons Trinity Church to reject on a topic for his paper. Inside, Vareika saw the elaborate murals around the sanctuary, works by Nineteenth Century American artist John La Farge. His class project turned into a lifelong endeavor. During his senior year, as part of an independent study on La Farge, Vareika visited Newport, where the artist had been tutored by William Morris Hunt. La Farge lived from 1835 until 1910 — much of the time in Newport — and is Americas most famous stained-glass maker. As a result of his visit, Vareika was drawn into a strug- gle to save Newport Congre- gational Church — with its La Farge stained-glass windows — from being bulldozed. Bill decided to devote his summer before law school to the save-the-church campaign, which turned into six years of unpaid community organizing and negotiating among church members and developers. Meanwhile, Vareika worked as a part-time janitor at a local art museum and as an art “picker,” trolling yard sales and thrift shops for items and resell- ing them to galleries. The church battle was eventually won, but Vareika never entered law school. Instead, he became an art dealer, specializing in 18th and 19 th Century American art. In 1987, Bill and his wife, Alison, established William Vareika Fine Arts Ltd. on histor- ic Bellevue Avenue, next to the landmark Casino building and the Tennis Hall of Fame. From the beginning, the Vareikas defined the mission of their busi- ness as twofold: it would serve to provide a public viewing space for important historic American art, and it would be the vehicle through which they could sup- port charitable causes. For almost 30 years, the Vareikas have used their gallery as a means to raise awareness about a variety of causes. They have also donated over one mil- lion dollars, as well as numerous artworks, to various causes such as the Newport Art Museum, Newport Hospital, Hasbro Childrens Hospital, Martin Luther King Community Center, and the Newport Historical Society. Bill also established the William Vareika Award for Arts and Public Policy conferred annually on a Salve Regina University graduate with a dem- onstrated appreciation for art, as well as social conscience. Vareika has served on numerous boards and has received many awards for his efforts. Four years ago, he was honored by the Rhode Island Council on the Humanities with the “Honorary Chairs Award for Lifetime Achievement in the Humanities,” a tribute to his dedication to the preservation and appreciation of historic art and architecture in Rhode Island. Five years ago, the Vareikas led an effort to raise funds to acquire, restore, and install thir- teen La Farge stained-glass win- dows in the Our Lady of Mercy Chapel on the Salve Regina University campus. He received an honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters from Salve for his contributions as a preserva- tionist and philanthropist. Today Bill joins his inspira- tion , John LaFarge, as a member of the Rhode Island Heritage Hall of Fame.

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