Tucson Museum of Art receives $2.5M gift, loan of art collection

Tucson Museum of Art

Three standing human effigies, Maranon culture, Peru or Ecuador, 1000-500 B.C., slip-painted clay, from the collection of I. Michael and Beth Kasser. Image provided to the Tucson Museum of Art by Joanne Stuhr, Curator Kasser Mochary Art Foundation

TUCSON, Ariz. – The Tucson Museum of Art and Historic Block has announced that long-time arts supporter and Tucson business leader I. Michael Kasser and his wife Beth have donated $2.5 million to the museum’s fundraising campaign TMA/100: A Vision for the 21st Century. This gift constitutes the single most significant individual donor gift in the museum’s history and will support the construction of a new wing at the museum. A groundbreaking is planned for spring, 2019, with completion and gallery opening in late fall of the same year.
According to the museum’s CEO, Jeremy Mikolajczak, the 6,000 square-foot gallery, to be named the “Kasser Family Wing,” will be used to exhibit Pre-Columbian and Latin American art.  In addition to providing the funds for the project, Mr. Kasser also intends to provide the Tucson Museum of Art (TMA) with an indefinite loan of his extensive Latin American art collection, which features over 250 works of Pre-Columbian art.  The museum will display works from its current holdings in the Kasser Family Wing, as well as the works that are made available through this loan arrangement.

“Tucson’s commitment to building and sustaining quality arts organizations that reflect my desire, and that of Mayor Rothschild, for the city to grow as a cultural destination,” Kasser said in a statement. “Beth and I hope that the new wing we are building at TMA, in addition to the loan of the Pre-Columbian collection, will advance our family’s mission of inspiring and promoting appreciation of the fine arts and encourage visitors, students, and scholars.”

“The Tucson Museum of Art has long been Tucson’s public art museum and an institution that supports our diverse cultural community. This new wing will allow the museum to expand its exhibition of Latin American art, connect with the origins of our region, and advance its role as a nationally renowned center for Pre-Columbian art,” says Mikolajczak. “The Kasser family’s support for the museum reflects its astounding commitment to the advancement of arts and culture in Southern Arizona and their firm belief that the city deserves great art.”

Tucson Museum of Art

Earthenware Veracruz priestess, Mexico, 450-950 A.D., from the collection of I. Michael and Beth Kasser. Image provided to the Tucson Museum of Art by Joanne Stuhr, Curator Kasser Mochary Art Foundation

I. Michael Kasser is a long-term member of the museum’s Board of Trustees as well as a vocal advocate and supporter of visual and performing arts including the Arizona Theatre Company (ATC) in Tucson and Phoenix, Arizona. The Tucson Museum of Art and the Kasser Family have collaborated successfully for several years through the loan and exhibition of artworks from the prestigious Kasser Mochary Art Foundation Collection. First exhibited at the museum in 2014, the exhibition, The Figure Examined: Masterworks from the Kasser Mochary Art Foundation, broke the museum’s previous attendance records. More than a dozen works from the foundation are currently on view at the museum.

The Kasser pledge is the latest in a string of major gifts to the Tucson Museum of Art in support of sustaining its vision, exhibitions, and programs long into the future. In 2017, the Tucson Museum of Art raised over $1.5 million from private donors and underwent a complete renovation that increased the museum’s capacity to exhibit its permanent collection, support significant feature exhibitions, and expand access to the region’s oldest and largest visual arts institution.

“The Tucson Museum of Art is one of the region’s most important and treasured cultural institutions,” says Michael S. Bylsma, President of the Board of Trustees. “With this very generous gift to launch Phase II of our $5.5 million campaign, TMA/100:A Vision for the 21st Century, we can ensure that the Tucson Museum of Art continues to play a central role in the cultural vibrancy of this great city and reaches even higher goals in its service to the community. On behalf of the Board of Trustees, I salute our colleague Mike Kasser and his wife Beth for their belief in our ability to engage future generations of audiences and their extraordinary support of the museum with this transformative gift.”

About TMA’s Latin American Art Collection

The Latin American Art collection encompasses over 1,000 works of art including paintings, sculptures, ceramics, textiles, and decorative arts. The collection encompasses Pre-Columbian art of Mexico, Central America, and South America; art of the Hispanic vice-regencies and Spanish colonies; 19th-century art of Latin American nations (republics) inclusive of the Caribbean; and Modern and Contemporary works from Latin America and the United States.

Tucson Museum of Art

Clay vessel depicting Moche shaman, Peru, 300-700 A.D., from the collection of I. Michael and Beth Kasser. Image provided to the Tucson Museum of Art by Joanne Stuhr, Curator Kasser Mochary Art Foundation

The Tucson Museum of Art’s Pre-Columbian and Latin American collection was started with generous gifts from distinguished scholar and museum curator Frederick R. Pleasants. Pleasants was one of approximately 345 men and women who worked to protect and save art and cultural treasures in Europe during World War II. These men and women are known today as the “Monuments Men.”

In 2015, the museum announced a gift from the estate of Jeanette H. and Bernard L. Schmidt to endow a Curator of Latin American Art position at the museum, which the museum intends to fill by early 2019.

About the Campaign

TMA/100: A Vision for the 21st Century is TMA’s fundraising campaign that reflects the museum’s belief that a community deserves access to exceptional exhibitions and education programs that share our passion for art, culture, and history of Tucson and Southern Arizona.

In the fall of 2017, Phase I of the multi-phased campaign was completed, raising over $1.5 million from private donors in under 12 months. Launched in early 2018, Phase II of the project seeks to raise over $5.5 million for expansion of the existing main museum building and the renovation of the education and administration center.

Included in the campaign is a platform for reinvesting in the museum, with a portion of the funds raised used for physical improvements and expansion, while the remaining balance is reinvested in the museum’s endowment. TMA wants to ensure that future generations will have a place to explore and create for years to come.

About the Tucson Museum of Art and Historic Block

The Tucson Museum of Art and Historic Block’s mission is Connecting Art to Life. The museum was founded in 1924 in the El Presidio Historic District of downtown Tucson. It is Southern Arizona’s premier presenter of fine art and art education programs.

The Museum features permanent and traveling exhibitions of Modern and Contemporary, Native American, American West, Latin American, and Asian art. The 74,000 square foot Museum offers guided tours, education programs, and studio art classes in a contemporary building. The Museum’s Historic Block of 19th and 20th-century adobe and Mission Revival-style buildings, encompassing a four-acre city block, includes the John K. Goodman Pavilion, the highly acclaimed museum restaurant Café a la C’Art, and additional exhibition and studio spaces. For more information, please visit www.TucsonMuseumofArt.org, or call 520-624-2333.  Follow the latest events on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. TMA is a private 501(c)(3) charitable arts and education organization.

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