DALLAS, TX.- The Dallas Museum of Art
announced the passing of Mrs. Edith ODonnell, a visionary philanthropist whose support of the DMA over an extraordinary seven decades increased access to the Museum through free general admission and propelled the Museum into the digital era. Mrs. ODonnells commitment to the DMA personally, with her husband, Peter, and through the ODonnell Foundation they founded, positioned the Museum as a leader at the intersection of arts, education, and technology.
Mrs. ODonnells 70-year history of support for the DMA began in 1952, when she became a volunteer for the Museum. Mrs. ODonnell volunteered as a DMA docent for 10 years and participated on a number of Museum committees from the late 1970s through the 2000s. She served as a DMA trustee from 1989 and was a member of the Boards Education Committee for 17 years, acting as Chair of the committee in 1992.
In 2013 Edith and Peter ODonnell personally and through the ODonnell Foundation made a multiyear gift of $9 million to reestablish the DMAs free general admission policy and to support the digitization of the Museums entire collection. This donation enabled the DMA to become one of the worlds most open museums to both visitors in the city and web users around the globe. Since the Museums return to free general admission in 2013, the DMA has welcomed more than 5 million visitors. The four-year effort to digitize the Museums entire collection, which began in 2014, increased the number of artworks published in the DMAs online collection database from 7,000 to over 25,000 objects. The visionary investment in the online collection database has proven to be an invaluable asset through the challenges of the 2020 COVID-19 pandemic, which saw the Museum close for five months. With this tremendous resource, the DMA was able to pivot quickly to the digital sphere to sustain and grow its engagement with audiences worldwide. The DMAs online database provides a wealth of knowledge on the Museums collection for students, scholars, and digital guests. In addition to images and label information for every object, thousands of objects have a description, multimedia recordings, and/or additional web resources.
This year, the DMA received another gift of $1.42 million from the ODonnell Foundation to support expanding digital transformation initiatives, including a comprehensive redevelopment of the Museums website, infrastructure and systems upgrades, and the development of a constituent relationship management solution. By addressing these most critical needs, the 2020 grant will have a lasting impact on the DMA for years to come.
From 1996 to 2018, the DMA hosted an annual Young Masters exhibition, which featured select works created by Advanced Placement® Art History, Music Theory, and Studio Art students participating in the ODonnell Foundations AP Fine Arts Incentive Program. Mrs. ODonnell created the program in 1994 to support high school students interest and success in rigorous college-level arts courses. In the 24-year history of the program, more than 20,500 arts and music students have benefited from the ODonnell Foundations AP incentive programs.
Mrs. ODonnell made a $17 million gift to The University of Texas at Dallas (UTD) to establish the Edith ODonnell Institute of Art History. The ODonnell Institute is housed jointly in the Edith ODonnell Arts and Technology Building on the UTD campus and in a unique research center at the DMA, where faculty and students have offices, workspace, and access to the DMAs collection and Mayer Library. Inaugurated in 2014, the ODonnell Institute partners with the Dallas Museum of Art to present programs, mentor students, and co-curate an exhibition case located next to the research center at the DMA. The Edith ODonnell Institute of Art History stands as a remarkable demonstration of Mrs. ODonnells lifetime of strategic philanthropy in support of her firm belief in and dedication to arts education for life.
Edith ODonnell was unwavering in her support, and her lifetime of supreme generosity to her beloved DMA always came from her warm and enormous heart. From her first encounter with the Museum as a volunteer and docent, she remained passionate about giving all that she could to her community, especially to the youngest members of our city, the children, providing generations of Texans with the opportunity and access to enjoy, understand, and create art. Her warm and spirited philanthropy will have a lasting effect on our institution and on all citizens of Dallas, said Dr. Agustín Arteaga, the DMAs Eugene McDermott Director.