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Not every work conjures such seriousness. Sculptor Maren Hassinger, who chairs the Rinehart School of Graduate Sculpture at MICA, used galvanized wire rope to craft a group of whimsical branch-like pieces on the second floor landing called Notes from the Wind. "I look at that one all the time," says portfolio manager/analyst Keith Lee, whose office is near the work "It's quite striking and soothing. The shadows that it casts make me feel like I'm outside."

All the pieces in the office are numbered and catalogued, just as they would be in a museum. "Nothing is arbitrary about this process," explains Rabb. "We've set about it very methodically. The whole idea is to build a collection, not decorate an individual office."

There is another force at work here, one that dovetails nicely with Eddie Brown's professional history. "We have made history as the second oldest African-American investment firm in the United States," he says. "When we moved here, I thought it would be a neat idea to bring that history together with that of African-American artists. I never thought about doing it any other way, because it provides a sense of legacy"

The Browns are creating quite a legacy. In the past year or so, they have donated somewhere in the neighborhood of $13 million dollars, much of it through the Brown Family Foundation, which their daughters help run. Besides the art-related donations, other recent contributions include a $1 million endowment to the Enoch Pratt Free Library to expand its African-American collec- [[text cut off]]

middle school students in poor city neighborhoods; and $250,000 to endow an investment fund and business lecture series at Howard University, their alma mater. 

It's not bad for two people who, in the beginning, had little more than big dreams and each other. Eddie Brown was raised by his grandparents, in a small farming town outside Orlando, Florida. His grandmother always stressed education, and in the late 1950s, he left home to attend Howard, where he earned an electrical engineering degree and met his future wife. Sylvia, a self-described "country girl" from King William County, Virginia, was working on a degree in physical education.
The pair fell in love and have been together ever since. They will celebrate 40 years of marriage in August. "For a long time, we did not have much, could not afford much," says Sylvia, a former teacher and administrator. "We wanted certain things, like a house, so we always worked hard and kept the faith."
In 1973, Eddie--armed with an MBA from Indiana University--became the first black portfolio manager at T. Rowe Price. He worked in the company's Baltimore office for a decade and rose to vice president, before striking out on his own. Today, Brown Capital Management has a staff of 22 and manages some $5.6 billion in assets for pension systems and numerous other clients. Along the way, Eddie gained a reputation as a top finance guru and appeared regularly on Wall Street Week with Louis Rukeyser.
Still, Eddie and Sylvia come across as good-natured, humble folks, who try not to take themselves too seriously. They often cite words spoken by a former minister, who told them, "It's great when you are blessed, but you must also remember to be a blessing."
These days, the Browns are counting their many blessings and enjoying their love affair with art. Their passion for collecting goes beyond dollars and cents, though sources familiar with the collection assess its value at more than $1 million. [The couple and curator decline to discuss specifics.]
Under Rabb's tutelage, they have evolved from tentative neophytes to confident collectors. "We recently went up to New York City to attend some art shows," says Eddie Brown. "It's been very exciting to meet artists and see works that we can possibly add to our collection."
Adds Sylvia, "I think the thing that I love about all this is how it has increased our knowledge about art. We read more and go to galleries and seminars. Collecting work by African American artists has increased my overall appreciation for art."
Rabb says the best thing about her clients is their enthusiasm. "They are just having so much fun," she says. "I like to call it our whirlwind art adventure."
Ever the businessman, Eddie Brown also cannot resist the thrill "of the chase. You're constantly searching and chasing, or looking out for interesting pieces. And it's amazing the number of calls you get once people know you're interested."
He adds with a chuckle, "It's somewhat addictive. We can't turn it off."