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November 2011: American Art Renewal Fund Summary Report

The Henry Luce Foundation has awarded 57 American Art Renewal Fund (AARF) grants to museums across the country for a total of nearly $5.5 million. The AARF initiative was established in 2010 to strengthen museums’ American art programs in response to the economic downturn that forced widespread layoffs, cancellation of exhibitions, modified capital projects, deferred building maintenance, shortened public hours, and increased admission fees.

Instead of its typical project grants, the Luce Foundation considered requests for operating support restricted to American art activities – personnel, maintenance, capital needs, cash reserves, and debt-reduction were among eligible expenses. The AARF initiative was open to 93 art museums, all prior grantees with successful track records fulfilling Luce-funded projects. Applicants were required to describe how the economic downturn affected their overall institution, specifically the American art activities, and how an AARF grant would assist in the museum’s recovery.

Proposals were evaluated based on the urgency of circumstances, significance of anticipated outcomes and feasibility of work plan. Luce Foundation staff was initially advised by the Nonprofit Finance Fund, a specialist in fiscal analysis and technical assistance for cultural organizations.

The American Art Renewal Fund was a departure for the Foundation, but it built on a significant investment supporting American art. During the past 30 years, the Foundation has awarded approximately $140 million for American art programs and research at some 250 museums and universities. The AARF initiative enabled the Foundation to respond strategically to the crisis at American art museums, while maintaining the objectives of its own longstanding American art program.

The AARF grants ranged from $30,000 to $200,000, and the recipient museums represent 30 states and the District of Columbia. Their annual operating budgets range from $500,000 to $65 million, with the vast majority running organizations with under $10 million a year. A complete list of recipients can be found here.



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