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IMA Receives $2.2 Million Endowment Gift From Ruth Lilly

INDIANAPOLIS.-The Indianapolis Museum of Art today announced that it has received a $2.2 million gift from philanthropist Ruth Lilly to endow the IMA’s director of horticulture, a position held by Mark Zelonis since 1997. In recognition of the gift, the IMA will refer to this position as the Ruth Lilly Director of Oldfields & Horticulture.

Zelonis is responsible for the management, maintenance and development of the IMA’s 152 acres of gardens and grounds, with special emphasis on the 26-acre historic property of Oldfields, the former estate of the Josiah K. Lilly Jr., grandson of Colonel Eli Lilly, founder of Eli Lilly & Company. In 2002, the IMA completed the restoration of Oldfields–Lilly House & Gardens as the first phase of the IMA’s three-part, $220-million institutional expansion. At the center of Oldfields is the three-story Lilly House, a French-chateau-style mansion restored to the 1930s time period of the Lilly family occupancy. The estate also includes a formal garden, a tree-lined allée with border gardens, and a one-acre hillside ravine garden.

“As a restored Country Place era estate, Oldfields adds another dimension to the range of high-quality art experiences offered by the IMA,” said Maxwell L. Anderson, the Melvin and Bren Simon Director & CEO. “Ruth Lilly has demonstrated time and time again her support of the arts, her love of the community and her commitment to preserving her family’s history and legacy for generations to come.”

Lilly’s gift marks the second donation that has underwritten a key position at the IMA. In May, the IMA announced that it had received a $10 million endowment gift from Melvin and Bren Simon to underwrite the Museum’s director and CEO. Currently, Lilly’s gift brings the IMA’s endowment to more than $379 and marks the sixth significant endowment gift to the Museum in the past year, following the Simon gift of $10 million; $2.5 million from the Efroymson Fund for the contemporary art program; $11 million for the IMA’s future Virginia B. Fairbanks Art & Nature Park; and $3.2 million in estate gifts. The IMA’s endowment—a vital resource dedicated to supporting the museum’s fiscal health and growth in perpetuity–is among the largest of the nation’s art museums.

In addition to managing the horticulture division, Zelonis is a project director for the IMA’s Fairbanks Art & Nature Park, located on 100 acres of untamed woodlands, wetlands, meadow and a 35-acre lake adjacent to the Museum. Set to open in 2009, the Park will be one of the largest museum contemporary sculpture parks in the country and the only one to feature ongoing site-specific commissions in a range of media that explore and respond to the varied environments of the Park from artists at all stages of their careers. Zelonis and his staff will be responsible for managing the Park’s existing landscape; working with the landscape architects in creating and installing new landscape elements; assisting with the installation of contemporary art works; and presenting nature and gardening programs.

“Visitors who stroll our grounds, ride bikes on our paths, play on our lawns, and tour our beautiful campus have Ruth Lilly and her family to thank,” said Mark Zelonis, the Ruth Lilly Director of Oldfields & Horticulture. “We’ve been given a wonderful gift to care for, and we aim to be the best stewards a property such as this deserves.”

Ruth Lilly is the only living heir to the Eli Lilly pharmaceutical fortune, built by her great grandfather, Colonel Eli Lilly (1839-1898). Since the early 1960s, Lilly has given more than $20 million to the IMA, primarily for support of Oldfields–Lilly House & Gardens. She is a member of the IMA Board of Trustees and the Horticultural Society. In addition to the arts, Lilly also supports health education, youth programs, and historic preservation in the community.

"The Lilly family is delighted that these resources will ensure the quality of leadership for Oldfields and the horticultural programs into the future,” said a Lilly family spokesperson. “The family also thanks Mark Zelonis for his contributions to the home and its beautiful grounds."

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