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Art & Culture

Helen Frankenthaler Foundation’s Historic $2 Million Donation to Smithsonian American Art Museum

  • Marilyn Walters
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  • August 22, 2023
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  • 3 minute read
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Helen Frankenthaler Foundation’s Historic $2 Million Donation to Smithsonian American Art Museum

Explore Helen Frankenthaler Foundation makes a landmark donation of $2 million to the Smithsonian American Art Museum.

Key Takeaways
  • The Helen Frankenthaler Foundation donates $2 million to the Smithsonian American Art Museum, marking the largest contribution in the fellowship program’s 53-year history.
  • The donation will create the Helen Frankenthaler Foundation Fellowship, focused on modern and contemporary American art.
  • The fellowship aims to foster academic and professional development among a diverse new generation of scholars and students.

Frankenthaler Foundation Fuels the Future of American Art with $2 Million Donation

In a significant act of philanthropy, the Helen Frankenthaler Foundation has bestowed a generous donation of $2 million to the Smithsonian American Art Museum (SAAM). This substantial gift marks the largest donation that the museum’s fellowship program has received in its 53-year history. Additionally, it brings a monumental $10 million capital campaign for the fellowship program to its completion.

Sowing Seeds for the Next Generation of American Art Scholars

The donation from the Frankenthaler Foundation will serve to establish an endowment for a fellowship, named the Helen Frankenthaler Foundation Fellowship. This fellowship will be concentrated on modern and contemporary American art. The inaugural Frankenthaler Foundation Fellowship is slated to be awarded for the 2024-25 academic year, with the application deadline set for November 1, 2023.

Positioned within SAAM’s Research and Scholars Center, the fellowship is designed to be accessible to scholars at every stage of their academic journey, from Ph.D. candidates to seasoned academics. This program is envisioned as an integral component in the research necessary for scholars to complete their dissertations or publish their books.

Furthermore, the Foundation’s $2 million donation is not solely tied to the new fellowship. It is also earmarked for professional development resources available to all fellows actively participating in the Research and Scholars Center.

Explore Helen Frankenthaler Foundation makes a landmark donation of $2 million to the Smithsonian American Art Museum.

A Remedy for Academic Isolation and a Pathway to Collaborative Growth

According to SAAM Director Stephanie Stebich, the process of writing a dissertation or book can be isolating and arduous, and she sees the SAAM’s fellowship program as an antidote to this solitude. “It is a nurturing space where scholars learn from each other, deepening and expanding their thinking,” Stebich mentioned in a communication with ARTnews.

Appointed as SAAM’s director in the spring of 2017, Stebich initiated the $10 million capital campaign the subsequent year, leading up to the fellowship program’s 50th anniversary in 2020. She emphasized the museum’s “outsized impact as an educational and research institution” and articulated the need for augmented funding to sustain its scholarly initiatives.

Philanthropy Reflecting a Legacy of Influence in American Art

In a detailed interview, Elizabeth Smith, the Executive Director of the Frankenthaler Foundation, underlined the alignment of the Foundation’s donation with its enduring commitment to American art—a field that was pivotal to Frankenthaler herself. Smith passionately described SAAM’s fellows as representing “an exciting cross-section of the best of the field.”

Established during the artist’s lifetime and activated in 2013, two years following Frankenthaler’s death, the Frankenthaler Foundation has been vigorously supporting art history and visual arts programs at various universities nationwide.

In a parting note, Stebich said, “Helen Frankenthaler was one of the leading American artists of the twentieth century. Establishing an endowed fellowship in the Foundation’s name, devoted to modern and contemporary art, seemed pitch perfect.”

Marilyn Walters

Marilyn Walters

Marilyn Walters is a seasoned news journalist with over two years of experience in the field. Known for her investigative reporting and insightful analysis, Marilyn has covered significant global events with an objective lens. Her relentless pursuit of truth and dedication to journalistic integrity have established her as a respected voice in today's dynamic news landscape.

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