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INSIDE THE HISTORIC MOUNT VERNON MANSION that houses Brown Capital Management Inc., Eddie and Sylvia Brown are meeting in an elegantly appointed conference room. The founder and president of one of the country's leading investment-management firms has important business to discuss with his wife. Apparently, it involves a recent acquisition. 
But on this rainy spring afternoon, the couple does not talk about stocks, commodities, or the market. Nor does their conversation focus on philanthropy, though they have donated millions of dollars of late to numerous community causes.
Instead, the topic at hand is art. 
More specifically, it is a 19th-century oil painting by Edward Mitchell Bannister, one of the earliest artists of color to earn acclaim in America. "So," a visibly excited Eddie Brown says to his wife, "Where did you hang it? Was any furniture moved, and will I still recognize the house when I get home from work?" 
The two start laughing. "You'll just have to wait and see," she says, smiling at her husband. "But I think we've found the perfect place for it." 
The Bannister landscape, called Path to Market, is one of the latest additions to a remarkable private and corporate art collection that features the work of African-American artists. There are paintings, prints, drawings, sculpture, photographs, mixed media, textiles, and more - to date, about 90 pieces - spanning a period from the 1800s to the present. The works encompass an array of movements and styles, including Expressionism, Post-Modernism, and variations on Cubism. 
"We developed an interest in art by African-Americans about 10 years ago and started to acquire pieces here and there," says Eddie Brown, who exudes a warm congeniality. "Not long afterwards, our oldest daughter began painting and drawing. As her talent evidenced itself, we became more interested in learning about African-American artists. In the last several years, we have become more serious about it." 
The Browns are not simply collectors, however. They have developed a passion for the visual arts that has manifested itself in countless ways. Theirs is an avowed commitment that includes serving on the boards of several local art institutions and providing substantial financial patronage. It is a vision painted in broad, expansive strokes, one that promises to enrich the community at large. 

FLASHBACK TO MARCH 26, 2001. BALTIMORE IS ABUZZ WITH talk of a $6 million donation to the Maryland Institute of Art (MICA). It is the largest single gift in the history of the then-175-year-old institution, one earmarked toward its first completely new academic building in nearly a century. 
The generous benefactors?
Eddie and Sylvia Brown, along with their daughters Jen-[[text cut off]] 


important role MICA plays in our community," said Eddie Brown at the time. "But I developed a personal relationship when my daughter entered as a graduate student. I learned of the plans for the new academic building in my role as a parent trustee, and I was immediately impressed by it. I wanted to help make it happen."
This spring, construction crews broke ground on the forthcoming Brown Center to be located on Mount Royal Avenue near Bolton Hill. The four-story structure will be home to the school's digital technology-based programs at the undergraduate and graduate levels. There will also be a 550-seat auditorium for public programs and performances. The 60,000-square-foot structure which is slated to open in Fall 2003, will be sheathed in white translucent glass and have a four-story atrium. 
With the MICA building underway, the Browns have since turned their attention to Baltimore's major museums. The Walters Art Museum has recently announced a gift of half a million dollars from the Browns, who are active board and committee members there. Another $150,000 has already gone to the Baltimore Museum of Art, where Mrs. Brown is a board member. The funds are "challenge" type grants, which both institutions must match. They are also "restricted" gifts to be used solely to acquire works by African-American artists.