The idea for the Function, Form, and Fantasy: Ceramics from the Dr. Robert and Deanna Harris Burger exhibition originated with the Burgers' expressed desire to share their collection, based in their home in Florida, with the people of Flint, Michigan. The exhibition only shows a fraction of the more than 400 works that the Burgers have collected over the past 30 years. These works were selected to represent the highlights of the Burger collection, illustrating its scope, diversity, and defining characteristics. Many works in this exhibition also bear the credit line "Gift of…" because the Burgers have given these works to the Flint Institute of Arts, demonstrating their commitment to share their collection.
With the same sense of responsibility that museums have to the public to care for the objects entrusted to them, Dr. Robert (Bob) and Deanna (Debbie) Harris Burger consider themselves caretakers, instead of simply owners, of the artworks they have collected. They declare that it is their intention to share these works with others now and in the future, rather than keeping the art all to themselves. It is this generous impulse that brings about this exhibition of objects selected from their exemplary collection.
The Burgers' ties to Flint begin with Debbie, as she grew up here. She describes her first encounter with art taking place in the studios of the FIA Art School (at its previous location on West First Street) when she took a ceramics class at age seven or eight. This childhood experience would prove influential, not only in Debbie's subsequent passion for art, but also her remembrance of the FIA when she and her husband began to donate works of art. Since 2005, the Burgers have donated nearly 250 artworks to the FIA, including more than 180 ceramic works and 40 works on paper. Most recently, they gave the FIA 50 works, mostly ceramics.