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Luce Foundation crosses $100 million mark in grants to further the study and public display of American Art

More than 300 Museums, Universities and Service Organizations Received Funding for Exhibitions, Publications, Collection Cataloguing and Scholarship

New York, NY, May 4, 2004—The Henry Luce Foundation today announced that with the completion of its 2003 grant cycle it has surpassed the $100,000,000 threshold in funding provided exclusively for the study and presentation of American art. Since the inception of the American Art Program in 1982, the Luce Foundation has supported approximately 200 exhibitions, over 190 exhibition catalogues, more than 250 dissertation fellowships, over 100 projects to catalogue museums' permanent collections, and the establishment of four major, publicly accessible study centers. These Luce Foundation-funded initiatives have helped foster interest in American art in virtually every part of the nation, at close to 200 museums and 50 colleges and universities in 155 cities in 47 states and the District of Columbia.

"This is an important moment for the Foundation and its partners to assess what a sustained program strategically focused on a specific area of human endeavor can achieve," said Michael Gilligan, President of the Luce Foundation. "We believe that the success of this program can serve as a model for other foundations and individuals who would like to make a lasting impact on a particular field and on our nation."

The Luce Foundation's sustained, multifaceted program has transformed the study, appreciation, and accessibility of American art in this country. John Davis, an American art scholar and chair of the Art Department at Smith College who recently completed a study of the growth of American art as a field, stated, "The American Art Program of the Henry Luce Foundation has played a pivotal role in changing the way in which American art is viewed in this country. It has greatly multiplied the opportunities for the study and teaching of American art in colleges and universities, and through its museum programs it has brought the full range of American art and material culture before a significantly expanded audience. In a relatively brief period of time, the Program has catalyzed an unparalleled transformation of the field of American art history."

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The American Art Program is unprecedented in its focus, depth, and impact. It was specifically designed to encourage the study of American art, make the field robust and raise the profile of American art in the U.S. and abroad. Divided into three areas, the program provides funding for the development and touring of exhibitions; responsive grants encompassing publications, archival, collections management, and other scholarly projects; and dissertation fellowships and research awards. Specifically, the program has served to:

  • build scholarly resources and capacity at more than 50 colleges and universities, including doctoral dissertation fellowships, professional development, visiting scholars, conferences and symposia, and expanded curricula, among other areas at schools ranging from the state universities of Iowa, Texas and Washington to Stanford, Columbia and M.I.T.
  • enhance the study and presentation of American art at museums throughout the country, encompassing permanent installations, collection cataloguing and publication, research, and scholarly symposia and public programs at museums from the Maier Museum of Art at Randolph-Macon Woman's College in Lynchburg, Virginia to the Utah Museum of Fine Arts to the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C.
  • advance public accessibility and appreciation through the funding of traveling exhibitions, which brought nearly 200 exhibitions to approximately 450 museums, which were seen by millions of people
  • build unprecedented resource centers for American art at four major museums-The Metropolitan Museum of Art, The New-York Historical Society, the Brooklyn Museum of Art and the Smithsonian American Art Museum (opening in 2006)-that make outstanding collections of American art easily accessible to the public and scholars

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"By supporting all parts of the equation-scholarship, professional training, programs, exhibitions, publications, resources, and audience development- the Luce Foundation has enabled the field to fuel its own ongoing growth and advancement," noted Ellen Holtzman, Program Director for the Arts. "The key has been for the Foundation to be a consistent and sensitive partner in building the field by working hand-in-hand with both individuals and institutions."

Encouraged by Henry Luce III, the Foundation's chairman emeritus, the American Art program was conceived by the Foundation following a study it conducted in 1981 that discovered that there were no grant programs at American foundations and little funding dedicated to the advancement of American art. While there were many foundation programs in the U.S. and abroad supporting European art and other areas of art historical study, research and presentation, American art was still struggling to find its footing in both the museum and scholarly communities. In addition to filling a much needed void, the Luce Foundation leadership felt that the American Art program was consistent with the interests of its founder, Henry R. Luce, and his vision of "The American Century."

In its initial research in the early 1980s, the Foundation noted only nine universities with strong commitments to American art. With the help of Luce Foundation grants, by 1995 that number had more than tripled to thirty. In a similar vein, twenty-two years ago many museums had not yet catalogued or published their American art collections. Today, Luce Foundation grants have helped fund the publication of multi-volume sets of catalogues by more than 100 institutions.

"This transformative support for American art is a tribute to the vision of Henry Luce III and thoughtful implementation by former president Robert E. Armstrong and current program director Ellen Holtzman," said Michael Gilligan, President.

Despite tremendous gains in funding and scholarship, further research in the early 1990s discovered that important American art collections were still unrecognized and under-funded. As a result, the American Collections Enhancement (ACE) initiative was established in 1996 to seek out institutions with significant American art collections and fund projects explicitly intended to raise their visibility. During a five-year period ending in December 2000, the Luce Foundation distributed nearly $8 million for projects at 57 museums in 40 states, more than half of which had never before received Luce Foundation grants.

During its more than two decades of grant making, the Luce Foundation has awarded upwards of 250 dissertation fellowships to top scholars in the field of American art. Foundation grant recipients have gone on to become successful authorities in American art and hold prominent positions at top museums and universities, including as Executive Director of the New York City Art Commission, Director of the Hood Museum of Art at Dartmouth College, Director of Mount Holyoke College Art Museum, and Chair of the Art History Department at Yale University. Others have become top American art curators at institutions like the Museum of Fine Arts Boston, the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art in Kansas City, and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, among others.

The Henry Luce Foundation
The Henry Luce Foundation was established in 1936 by the late Henry R. Luce, cofounder and editor-in-chief of Time Inc. With assets of approximately $750 million, the Luce Foundation also supports higher education, Asian affairs, theology, women in science and engineering, and public policy and the environment.

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