Deborah L. Newton Legacy Endowment


"It should be noted that artwork done by students is a first experience in creating. It is the first offering that may entice and expand the student into artist. The legacy of this experience is to express, explore, and do art."

- Deborah L. Newton, 1986

To inspire, encourage, and support visual art through awards from the Rockford Art Museum (RAM) to 7th and 8th grade students and active artists in the Rockford area. 
Awards, in essence, give what Deborah herself received - a Katherine Lord scholarship in 1956 and the first Jessica Holt purchase award in 1992, which began and helped sustain her inspiration to others through her art and courageous actions. The scholarship and award in the names of Katherine and Jessica, both Rockford area female artists, no longer exist — — — — — — — — — Deborah's receiving inspires giving. 

This endowment will provide annual financial gifts to the RAM so that the RAM may provide.

- seed sowing to 7th and 8th grade students via art making experiences, and
- recognition to active artists via purchase awards, new work making, or exhibits of their work.

A summary of program description, purpose, criteria, and how to apply may be found below. 

Would you like to support the Deborah L. Newton Legacy Endowment? You can make a donation directly to this endowment, to help grow its impact and ability to support RAM in providing awards to 7th and 8th grade students and active artists in the Rockford area community -- forever!

Donate Now

Each RAM scholarship and award will give recognition to Deborah and this Endowment

Additionally, there are several Deborah L. Newton original paintings for sale, the proceeds of which will support this endowment. All paintings may be viewed in person at any time within the storefront windows at Bennies Cleaners, 126 N First Street, Rockford. Each painting has a placard describing the work and purchase instructions.

Unity 1979/January (73"x49")
73"h x 49"w
$2500 value
And baby Makes Three
And baby Makes Three
59"h x 12.5"w
$1000 value
cornfield whimsy
cornfield whimsy
2011/February, 24"h x 24"w, $350 value
waiting for you
waiting for you
1986/February, 48"h x 60"w, $2000 value

Deborah L. Newton Legacy Endowment Program Details

The Deborah L. Newton Legacy Endowment, established September 16, 2021, supports the Rockford Art Museum's ability to provide awards of "seed sowing" to students and recognition to artists in the Rockford area.

- Students will participate in art making experiences offered by RAM or other art organizations selected by RAM including the possibility of experiences co-created by recipient and RAM.
- Artists may have their work purchased to add to RAM's permanent collection, be commissioned by RAM to make new work, or have their work exhibited within RAM or other public buildings. 

Annual awards are made to 7th and 8th grade students and/or active artists at the discretion of the Rockford Art Museum (RAM).

If the application is from or award given to a student, the summary of criteria is as follows:

  • Rockford area (as defined by RAM) 7th or 8th grade student,
  • Interest in a visual art making experience at RAM,
  • Show self-motivation and interest in the visual arts,
  • Interest in pursuing making visual arts into the future over the course of their life,
  • Desire to represent RAM and the scholarship as a recipient and future recipient selector, 
  • Essay indicating why they wish to receive the scholarship and visual art making experience at RAM, and
  • Letters of support from representatives of the school which they attend.

If application is from an artist or artist nominator or award given to an artist, the summary of criteria is as follows:

  • Rockford area currently active visual artist,
  • Artist with active studio in the Rockford area for not less than 12 months prior to award,
  • Interest of recipient and RAM for:
    • A piece of the artist's work becoming part of RAM's permanent collection, or
    • RAM exhibiting the artist's body of work within RAM or other RAM selected public buildings during the 12-month period of the award, or
    • Artist producing a new body of work to be exhibited at RAM within the 12-month period of the award with one piece selected by RAM to become part of RAM's permanent collection, and
    • Being a member of selection group for subsequent recipient.
  • Though not required, letters of support from other visual artists and/or other Rockford are community representatives are encouraged.

To apply for this award, visit Rockford Art Museum's website to find the online application form. 

Apply Now

Background and Biography of Deborah L. Newton

Deborah had not yet experienced or explored her expression through art, but she had an interest. In 1956 at the age of 14 as an 8th grader at Lincoln Jr. High School Deborah received the Katherine Lord Scholarship to take art classes at the Burpee Museum of Art, now known as the Rockford Art Museum (RAM). A seed was sown.

In 1973, after participation in and awards from many regional art exhibitions, her first painting sold at RAM's Greenwich Village Art Fair. This sale sprouted into hundreds of "I paint what I feel, not what I see" canvases, which found homes in many Rockford residences and businesses. 

Tutelage from Pat Crew, Andrew Langoussis, and Tom Heflin resulted in Deborah's growth as a painter and artist.


In 1984, as an "urban adventurer" , Deborah's commitment to full-time art-making and establishing her roots in an artist's dreamy sky-lit studio on Market Street (sketch at right) in downtown Rockford led not only to expression of personal joy in her own work, it allowed her to "create a place where art, the artist, and the public become one". The building included tenant spaces for resident artists and creative professionals and a charitable organization guest gallery that, over 21 years, hosted 80+ exhibitions for hundreds of visual artists. She was sowing seeds of opportunity and interest in the visual arts for other artists and the community at large.

With roots established and feeling whole her inspiration was recognized:

  • By 1988 her paintings were in over 500 local and national homes and offices. 
  • In 1990 she was personal award recipient for development of 317 Market Street at the 4th annual River District Heart of Rockford Awards and again at the 6th annual awards for personal commitment. 
  • In 1992, as first recipient of nine annual Jessica Holt Purchase Awards, her painting Red on the Roof I (July 1991) (pictured below/right) became part of the permanent collection at RAM.

"My life as an artist is deeply rooted in Rockford.....and now this award....I am thrilled and honored. Honored to be a part of Jessica Holt's gift to the community of artists and thrilled to be able in my lifetime to see my visual expression grow and reach one other person inspires and sustains my work. I am enriched by this generosity."

- Deborah L. Newton, 1992

  • By 1992 she had received 38 art awards.
  • In 1993 she was the recipient of the YWCA Leader Luncheon Blanche Ellis Star Award for the Arts.
  • By 1994 her paintings were in over 900 private collections including 34 corporate customers.
  • In 1996 she was recipient of top honor at the 8th annual City of Rockford Mayor's Arts Awards.
  • In 2004 she was the commissioned artist for the 16th annual City of Rockford Mayor's Arts Awards.
  • By 2012 over 1700 of her paintings were part of private collections nationally.
  • In 2021 she posthumously was recipient of the Rockford Area Arts Council (RAAC) Lifetime Achievement in the Arts.

Learn more about Deborah at this biography.

Both the Katherine Lord Scholarship and the Jessica Holt Purchase Award Deborah received were through RAM in the names of accomplished female Rockford area visual artists. One sowed a seed, the other recognized her ability and accomplishments, and both resulted in her inspiring work and actions flourishing.

Paintings at the top and bottom of this page, and those in the slideshow immediately above, all by Deborah L. Newton. 

Titles of paintings at the top of this page, L to R:

- Tulips, 1971
- sunny, September 1980
- night quilt, May 1988
- Healing series - applewalk, October 1992

Titles of paintings at the bottom of this page, L to R:
- Let's Make it Happen, February 1997
- nest, January 2004
- DeceMBer Love Series - 'together', November 2007
- see Love SMiLiNG, April 2015