Helen Frankenthaler Foundation awards $2.5 million to endow art history doctoral programs at five universities

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Helen Frankenthaler Foundation awards $2.5 million to endow art history doctoral programs at five universities
Students from the second and third years of UCLA’s MFA Painting program with Professor Silke Otto-Knapp and HFF Executive Director Elizabeth Smith. Photo: Robert Benson.

NEW YORK, NY.- Helen Frankenthaler Foundation announced the selection of five new institutional partners for Frankenthaler Scholarships, a multi-year initiative that has dedicated more than $4 million to art and art history graduate programs around the country. For the program’s next phase, the Foundation is awarding $500,000 to five different universities—The Graduate Center, CUNY; Harvard University; Institute of Fine Arts at New York University; Stanford University; and University of Chicago—to support the creation of named endowments that will offer one or more annual fellowships for doctoral students studying art history. These endowment gifts build on the inaugural round of Frankenthaler Scholarships, which support MFA programs in painting.

In addition to expanding its Frankenthaler Scholarships, the Foundation has continued to advance the contemporary practice of painting and the academic study of modern art history through philanthropic initiatives that stimulate new research on the art of Frankenthaler’s lifetime and inspire the next generation of painters. Recent initiatives include the creation of a new eponymous award with the Foundation for Contemporary Arts, the donation of a major painting by Frankenthaler to Tate Modern, and a $1-million gift to the capital campaign of the Studio Museum in Harlem to name the research library and support scholarship in the Museum’s new building.

“Helen was passionate about art education. Having benefited from her years at Bennington College, she maintained an active lecture schedule at universities and art schools across the U.S. We are very excited to be supporting these five outstanding doctoral programs in art history by endowing Frankenthaler Scholarships, as our gifts reflect Helen's deep passion for the history of art,” stated Clifford Ross, Chair of the Helen Frankenthaler Foundation’s Board of Trustees.

Elizabeth Smith, Executive Director of the Foundation, added, “The array of recent gifts, including not only the continuation of the Frankenthaler Scholarships program but also the new Foundation for Contemporary Arts award, the work gifted to Tate’s collection, and the support for the Studio Museum in Harlem’s research facilities speak to Helen’s core ideals for supporting the visual arts, in both research and practice.”

The first Ph.D. fellowships in the Frankenthaler Scholarships program will be awarded for the 2020–2021 academic year. Faculty at the associated institutions will select one or more student recipient(s), with preference given to those concentrating in the history of modern art.

These new endowment gifts build on the initial set of Frankenthaler Scholarships, which in 2018 donated $500,000 to four universities—Columbia University School of the Arts, School of the Art Institute of Chicago, UCLA School of the Arts and Architecture, and Yale School of Art—to establish endowment funds for annual support for MFA students concentrating in painting. The inaugural MFA fellowships for the 2019–2020 academic year were awarded to Nicole Doran (SAIC), Alexandra Heilbron (UCLA), Carly Sheehan (Yale), and Kiyomi Taylor (Columbia).

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