17:13 PM

Philadelphia Museum of Art Surpasses $450 Million Raised Toward It Starts Here Campaign

Museum reaches milestone in historic fundraising campaign

  • It Starts Here has attracted $455M toward its ambitious $525M goal, thanks to a collective effort involving 397 donors to date who have contributed gifts of $50K or more.
  • Support has come from across the community, with three donors who have contributed $25M or more each and six others giving $10M or more.
  • Among the goals of the campaign is support for the renovation and renewal of the main building, the current phase of which—the Core Project—will be completed in fall 2020.

View PDF of press release

August 7, 2019 (Philadelphia, PA): The Philadelphia Museum of Art has raised $455 million in support of It Starts Here: Campaign for the Philadelphia Museum of Art, Leslie Anne Miller, Chair of the Board of Trustees, and Timothy Rub, the George D. Widener Director and Chief Executive Officer, announced today. “We are deeply grateful to everyone who has made a contribution to this civic effort and believe, as we do, that the museum is the cultural heart of a great city and one of the keys to its future. It is our collective responsibility to secure the resources this institution needs to fulfill its mission and to continue to serve the needs of our community,” said Rub.

This milestone marks a significant step toward achieving the museum’s ambitious goal of $525 million to advance its strategic priorities. It Starts Here is the largest fundraising effort ever undertaken by a cultural institution in Philadelphia and one of the most substantial museum capital campaigns currently in progress in this country. “We are thrilled to announce that we have made such great progress on our campaign, which will enhance our ability to address both the challenges and the opportunities facing the Philadelphia Museum of Art and, frankly, all arts institutions in the 21st century,” Miller said. “The continued success of this campaign is a direct result of Philadelphians’ commitment to our museum as a source of civic pride. Campaign donors understand that a great city cannot be great without a vibrant arts community. While there is still much work to be done over the next two years, a successful conclusion to our campaign is now within sight.”

It Starts Here is led by co-chairs and museum Trustees Barbara Aronson, David Haas, and Katherine Sachs, along with vice chair Bruce Toll. The campaign has surpassed the museum’s projections to date, and is scheduled to be completed in two years, with a major moment being the completion of the Core Project in fall 2020.

The philanthropic goals of It Starts Here have been informed by the museum’s strategic vision for the future, which is focused on:

  • Attracting younger and more diverse audiences;

  • Enhancing the visitor experience by making much-needed physical improvements to the museum;

  • Activating the collection through gallery reinstallations and innovative programming; and

  • Strengthening the museum’s commitment to civic engagement.

To date, the museum has achieved over 80% of the overall goals for each of the following funding priorities: $150 million for the museum’s endowment, which currently remains below many of its peer museums nationally, to strengthen the operating budget; $142 million to support strategic initiatives in technology, education, access and community engagement, audience development, and to fund ongoing operations; and $233 million to support capital improvements, most notably the Core Project.

“Our campaign and strategic plan are centered on one critical goal: empowering the museum to fulfill its promise as a great civic institution, one that reflects Philadelphia’s rich and diverse history and serves the city today as a vital cultural resource,” Rub said. “Today, the museum enjoys a visitorship that is younger and as diverse as our Philadelphia region, with a median age of 39 for adult visitors and the percentage of our audience who are first-time visitors continuing to rise. An investment in the campaign—and the transformative ideas that it supports—is an investment in the future of Philadelphia. We are deeply grateful to all of those who have supported it to date, and we encourage others to help as well since we still have a long way to go.”

It Starts Here has been generously supported by museum Trustees and other individuals including members of its Chairman’s Council and Associates groups, city, state, and federal governments, foundations, and corporations, locally, nationally, and internationally, including three extraordinary donors who have each contributed more than $25 million:

Marguerite and H.F. “Gerry” Lenfest

Marguerite and the late Gerry Lenfest’s giving to the It Starts Here campaign exceeds $33 million. Gerry Lenfest led the Board of Trustees from 2001 through 2010, overseeing a significant period of growth and planning that laid the groundwork for the museum’s current historic fundraising and renewal initiatives. The Lenfests’ giving is primarily designated for capital projects and building the museum’s endowment, specifically through The Lenfest Challenge, a matching gift initiative that ultimately established endowed funds for 29 staff positions named by 27 donors.

Gail Harrity, the museum’s President and Chief Operating Officer, said: “Gerry was drawn to the Philadelphia Museum of Art because of his passion for art and his recognition that the museum serves as an educational and economic driver for civic renewal and growth. Few individuals have given so graciously of their time and so freely of their resources, and fewer still have had such an enormous impact on the museum’s history. Gerry’s leadership contributed greatly to the museum’s efforts to strengthen its endowment and to renovate and expand its facilities, including the landmark main building of which we are so proud.”

Constance and Sankey Williams

Museum Trustee and Chair Emerita Constance Hess Williams and her husband Sankey have contributed more than $27 million to the It Starts Here campaign. The couple have also offered a challenge grant of an additional $25 million to support the construction of the museum’s future auditorium sooner than anticipated in the schedule for the implementation of its Facilities Master Plan.

Williams served as Board Chair from 2010 through 2016. The funds that she and her husband have contributed to the campaign are supporting the museum’s endowment, programming and operations, and capital projects, including a challenge gift (with David Haas) which, when matched by gifts from other board members, secured the funds necessary to break ground on the Core Project in March 2017. Through their participation in The Lenfest Challenge, they also established the endowment for the Constance Williams Curator of Education, School and Teacher Programs, a position currently held by Barbara Bassett.

“My work with the Philadelphia Museum of Art has been one of the great joys and honors of my life,” Williams said. “I am particularly proud of our ongoing work expanding educational programming so that the museum can better serve the youth of Philadelphia and expose more young people to the transformative power of art. The It Starts Here campaign is the key to ensuring these programs continue to grow and evolve with our city. This campaign matters.”

Robert L. McNeil, Jr.

The late Robert L. McNeil, Jr.’s contribution of more than $25 million to be used solely for the renovation and expansion of the museum’s galleries of American art has been utilized in part for this purpose during the It Starts Here campaign. This remarkable gift was made in addition to previous donations from McNeil to endow five curatorial positions in the American Art department and provide funding for acquisitions and the work of the department’s Center for American Art, as well as his gift to the collection of over 1,000 works of American paintings, prints, drawings, craft, and decorative arts including early American furniture, American silver, Presidential China, and art by the Peale family.

“The museum’s holdings of American art are among the greatest treasures of its collection,” said Vicki Le Vine, one of McNeil’s daughters and a museum Trustee. “My mother and father’s dedicated philanthropic engagement with the museum, and specifically its important work showcasing the creativity of American artists and artisans, particularly those from Philadelphia, is a tradition that I am proud to continue as a Trustee myself. It is up to us to ensure that the museum’s future is strong and secure.”

Donors of Gifts Totaling $10 Million or More

As of June 30, the end of the museum’s fiscal year, an additional six donors had contributed between $10 million and $25 million to the It Starts Here campaign. The Daniel W. Dietrich II Foundation’s generous support has been directed to the museum’s endowment and capital improvements in the area of contemporary art, building on Mr. Dietrich’s bequest of more than fifty works of American art to enhance our collection, announced in 2016. Campaign co-chair Katherine Sachs and the late Keith L. Sachs, who served for many years as a Trustee of the museum and chair of several committees, supported capital projects and the endowment of the Keith L. and Katherine Sachs Senior Curator of Contemporary Art, now held by Carlos Basualdo, among other priorities. In 2013 they also made an extraordinary promised gift of over 100 works of contemporary art from their own collection. Campaign co-chair David Haas’s contributions have primarily supported the Core Project and technology, including for a new endowment, and programming and operational support. Chair of the Board of Trustees Leslie Anne Miller along with her husband Richard Worley have given generously to many top priorities—most significantly to capital projects, including the Core Project and auditorium, and to initiatives such as the new galleries of American art to 1840 opening in 2020, an area in which the couple collects. The City of Philadelphia and the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania have both invested in capital projects, specifically the Core Project, through It Starts Here. The City has been a key partner throughout the museum’s history, as it not only owns the museum’s facilities, including the main building, but also provides generous annual operating support. It is also investing in an $11.3 million energy savings initiative, announced in 2017 by the City’s Office of Sustainability, that contributes to the museum’s capital improvements.

In total, 397 donors, both first-time and longstanding, have contributed to It Starts Here at the level of $50,000 and above, a number that will continue to grow as additional gifts of all sizes come in.

Looking Ahead

The transformative impact of It Starts Here can already be felt. In October 2018, the museum inaugurated Stir and Café, the new Gehry-designed dining spaces which represent the first completed public areas of the architect’s plan for the landmark building. The museum’s educational programs for individuals, families, and students and educators in Philadelphia’s public schools and beyond are reaching a wider audience than ever before, with support from It Starts Here. When the Core Project is completed in 2020, the many benefits of the renewal and expansion of the main building called for in the Facilities Master Plan will be abundantly clear to all who visit. So, too, will the potential of the new initiatives, gallery reinstallations, and range of programmatic offerings made possible by the generosity of the donors to this ambitious campaign. Considered together, they are providing the resources to enable the Philadelphia Museum of Art to fulfill its mission as effectively in the future as it has since it was founded in 1876.

To learn more about the It Starts Here campaign, please visit philamuseum.org/ourfuture.


Norman Keyes
Director of Communications

Joy Deibert
Senior Press Officer


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We are Philadelphia’s art museum. A world-renowned collection. A landmark building. A place that welcomes everyone. We bring the arts to life, inspiring visitors—through scholarly study and creative play—to discover the spirit of imagination that lies in everyone. We connect people with the arts in rich and varied ways, making the experience of the museum surprising, lively, and always memorable. We are committed to inviting visitors to see the world—and themselves—anew through the beauty and expressive power of the arts.

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