BLOOMINGTON - A professor emeritus of fine arts at Indiana University has awarded what the school calls a "transformative estate gift." The nearly $4 million gift from Bill Itter includes a collection of more than 500 African art pieces and will also fund an endowment at the Sidney and Lois Eskenazi Museum of Art on the Bloomington campus.

Itter and his late wife, Diane, are both artists and collectors who began their collection in the 1970s. The collection being donated to IU includes ethnographic objects composed primarily of ceramics, textiles, and baskets, according to the university. IU says the gift will "greatly enhance" the Eskenazi Museum of Art's sub-Saharan African art collection.

The gift will also establish the William and Diane Itter Museum of Art Conservation and Research Endowment. The endowment will support either the hiring of an objects conservator at the museum or further research into the museum's collections. A new objects viewing room at the museum, slated to open next fall, will be named in honor of the Itters.

"For more than 35 years, Bill passionately taught generations of artists at Indiana University, as did his late wife, Diane," said David Brenneman, director of the Eskenazi Museum of Art. "Together they have made tremendous contributions to the art world through teaching about, collecting and creating works of art. We are grateful to be stewards of their tremendous collection, and we are thrilled to have the opportunity to conduct new research on our collection and preserve works of art for generations to study and enjoy."

Additionally, the gift will fund two graduate teaching awards and four new graduate fellowships at the IU School of Art, Architecture + Design. IU says the endowment portion of the gift is being matched as part of the $3 billion For All: The Indiana University Bicentennial Campaign.