In the spring of 1929, as a result of the grant from the Carnegie Corporation, in order to stimulate creative work and thus promote one of the two objectives of the Carnegie Corporation in giving the money, Avard T. Fairbanks (B.F.A. Yale '25, Ph.D. Michigan '36) was appointed Associate Professor of Fine Arts. He had studied at the École Nationale des Beaux Arts and at the Grande Chaumière Academie Colarossi under such teachers as James E. Fraser, G. Rossi, A. E. Zardo, and Dante Sodini. He was a Guggenheim fellow in 1927-28 and came to Michigan from the University of Oregon, where he had served as assistant professor of art from 1920 to 1927. Examples of his work include the State Memorial of Idaho, the memorial to Pioneer Mothers in Vancouver, Washington, the 91st Division memorial, medals, and busts.
With a selected group of students who were interested in sculpture, Fairbanks organized his classes on the fourth floor of University Hall. Life studies were instituted, and the students were given creative compositions to develop. The aim of the work was to train students in the technique and appreciation of sculpture. These classes have continued to attract a small but interested group of students. When the Carnegie grant terminated after five years, the program in sculpture was continued as one of the units of the Institute of Fine Arts.
Each spring an exhibition of the work of Professor Fairbanks and his students was held in the Michigan League and was viewed by thousands of visitors. In connection with the exhibit a small illustrated catalogue was published.