The National Gallery of Art has received a $30 million challenge grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation that celebrates the museum’s 75th anniversary and could generate $75 million for its programs.
The gallery announced Thursday that the grant would provide endowment money for four key areas: digital programs, education, conservation and the museum’s Center for Advanced Study in the Visual Arts, or CASVA.
National Gallery Director Earl “Rusty” Powell III said the grant represents “a great moment for the 75th anniversary.”
The grant has an unusual structure. The first $15 million must be matched by $45 million — or three times the original amount — from other private sources. Once NGA reaches that goal, Mellon will donate another $15 million.
The museum has five years to raise the matching funds. To qualify, those gifts must be permanently restricted and support the same four areas. Powell said the grant would be a significant incentive for other donors.
“Endowment is always difficult,” he said. “It is the hardest money to raise, and that’s why this is so important. It will stabilize key core programs.”
The anniversary grant continues the strong ties between the gallery and Andrew W. Mellon, the late Pittsburgh financier and treasury secretary whose art collection formed the basis for the museum. In 1937, Congress accepted Mellon’s offer to give his art collection to the country, along with money to build a museum to house it. The museum opened in 1941.
The foundation bearing Mellon’s name has already donated $93 million to the museum, including $35 million for the construction of the East Building, which opened in 1978. The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation was created in 1969 when two existing foundations established by Mellon’s children were combined. Ailsa Mellon Bruce and Paul Mellon named the new entity after their father, who died in 1937.
Powell is confident the museum will meet the grant’s match. Last year, NGA raised $22 million in private donations and, from 2011 to 2015, $121 million. Included in the $121 million was $25 million in donations for the expansion and renovation of the East Building, which is set to reopen Sept. 30.