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Abbott Gives Sheldon Memorial Art Gallery $1 Million

LINCOLN, NEBRASKA.- The Sheldon Memorial Art Gallery and Sculpture Garden at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln has received a $1 million gift commitment from the Ethel S. Abbott Charitable Foundation in Lincoln. The gift is the first major contribution of its kind for support of the gallery’s exhibitions and programs.

UNL Chancellor Harvey Perlman said the university is grateful for the foundation’s commitment and friendship. “This gift complements the Abbott Foundation’s longstanding work in support of the arts in Nebraska,” he said. “The ability to provide permanent funding for arts programming and exhibits at the Sheldon is a perfect way to ensure that future generations will benefit from Ethel Abbott’s philanthropy and generosity.”

The gift to the University of Nebraska Foundation creates the Ethel S. Abbott Charitable Foundation Exhibitions and Programs Fund, a permanent endowment with annual interest used to support the gallery.

Del Lienemann Sr., president of the Ethel S. Abbott Charitable Foundation, said this is one of the foundation’s most significant grants, and one for which Ethel Abbott would be proud. “Mrs. Abbott enjoyed many things, but history and the arts were near the top of her list,” he said. “The Sheldon Memorial Art Gallery fits both of these loves, and knowing this gift will help so many others learn and appreciate the arts is a wonderful legacy.”

Sheldon Director Janice Driesbach said she is especially appreciative of this gift because exhibitions and programs are central to the museum’s mission but have not previously had endowment support. “We are thrilled with this generous gift, which will provide critical support for our exhibitions and programs in coming years and for future generations,” she said.

The Sheldon’s exhibition program comprises about 20 exhibitions each year and focuses on American art in all media. The curatorial staff organizes exhibitions drawn from the permanent collection, some of which circulate nationally. The program also includes exhibitions organized by peer institutions throughout the United States. Educational programs such as symposia, lectures, children’s workshops and tours are organized in conjunction with each exhibition.

In recognition of the foundation’s support, the Sheldon has named its auditorium after Ethel Abbott and displays a portrait of her in the museum’s great hall along with a plaque about her life.

The Ethel S. Abbott Charitable Foundation has been a generous benefactor of the University of Nebraska. It has provided gifts for the Lied Center for Performing Arts, the McGoogan Library at UNMC, a faculty chair for the College of Nursing at UNMC, a university-wide student scholarship fund, and other areas and programs.

Ethel S. Abbott was born in Winona, Minn., in 1895 and moved to Lincoln with her family when she was a young girl. She married Raymond H. Page who operated Lincoln Aircraft Company until his death in 1932. Abbott’s second husband, Christopher J. Abbott of Hyannis, Neb., also enjoyed flying and operated Prairie Airways in Lincoln and Rocket Air Service in Omaha. A diverse businessman, he also owned seven ranches, was president of nine banks and operated an Iowa radio station. He died in 1954 in an airplane crash near Shreveport, La., while on a trip.

Because of her love of Nebraska and its educational and cultural endeavors, Ethel Abbott created a foundation in 1972 in association with her longtime financial advisor and accountant, Del Lienemann Sr. The Ethel S. Abbott Charitable Foundation supports classical music, medical research, education and family-oriented projects in western Nebraska, Lincoln and Omaha. After her death at age 97 in May 1992, a substantial portion of her estate went to the foundation.

The Sheldon Memorial Art Gallery and Sculpture Garden houses both the Nebraska Art Association collection founded in 1888 and the University of Nebraska collection initiated in 1929. Together they comprise more than 12,000 works of art in all media. This comprehensive collection of American art includes prominent holdings of 19th-century landscape and still life, American Impressionism, early Modernism, geometric abstraction, Abstract Expressionism, pop art, minimalism and contemporary art.

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