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Philadelphia Museum of Art meets initiative raising $54 million to endow 29 key staff positions
File photo of part of artist Barnett Newman's "Stations of the Cross" at the Philadelphia Museum of Art in Philadelphia.

PHILADELPHIA, PA.- The Philadelphia Museum of Art announced that it has met the goal of a major five-year initiative, The Lenfest Challenge, having raised a total of $54 million to endow 29 staff positions in its curatorial, conservation, library, archive, education, publishing, and digital technology departments.

H. F. (Gerry) Lenfest, Chairman Emeritus of the Museum’s Board of Trustees, and his wife, Marguerite, offered a $27 million grant in September 2008, challenging donors to match this gift on a one-to-one basis to endow and name these positions. A total of 27 donors have now done so, providing much-needed additional funding to support one of the Museum’s core resources: its professional staff.

Constance H. Williams, Chair of the Museum’s Board of Trustees, said: “The Museum applauds Gerry and Marguerite’s bold leadership in establishing The Lenfest Challenge, a galvanizing act that addresses the heart of our needs. We are deeply grateful for this exceptional gift, and for the way in which it has encouraged others to step up and provide funding for key positions in many different departments. This represents a milestone in the history of this institution.”

Timothy Rub, the Museum’s George D. Widener Director and CEO, said: “The Lenfests are among the most thoughtful and generous philanthropists of our time, leading by example and inspiring others to do the same. It is a wonderful moment to celebrate the extraordinary success of this investment in our staff. The support we have received to meet The Lenfest Challenge speaks volumes about the breadth of support for this institution in the community. It will provide a strong foundation for the work that remains to be done to provide the financial resources needed to sustain our work and ensure that the Philadelphia Museum of Art remains one of this country’s finest art museums.”

The success of The Lenfest Challenge has made the Museum a leader among its peers nationally for the number of positions it has endowed, bringing the total of named positions to 50. Augmenting its endowment, which has a current value of just over $400 million, has long been a priority for the Museum, as it generates far less operating income from this source than many of its peers, including the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston; the Art Institute of Chicago; and the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston. For this reason, initiatives such as The Lenfest Challenge are vitally important. Income from the endowment will enable the Museum to continue to attract and retain talented professional staff as well as sustain the excellence of its programs and activities.

When The Lenfest Challenge was initiated, Museum Trustee Keith Sachs and his wife, art historian Katherine Sachs, were the first donors to respond, supporting the position of Carlos Basualdo, now named The Keith L. and Katherine Sachs Senior Curator of Contemporary Art. Although the recent economic recession created a challenging fundraising environment, other donors followed. The last position to be funded through this initiative, The Agnes and Jack Mulroney Associate Curator of European Painting and Sculpture before 1900, is held by Christopher Atkins, a specialist in Dutch painting.

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