Delaware Art Museum.

Delaware Art Museum Gifted $15 Million

Wilmington, Delaware–based philanthropists Gerret and Tatiana Copeland have pledged $15 million to the Delaware Art Museum in order to help the institution find its financial footing. The institution lost its accreditation in 2014 after it sold several artworks to help pay off its debts. According to the News Journal, the donation is one of the largest received by the museum in at least thirty years.

CEO Samuel Sweet described the donation, which will be added to the museum’s $17 million endowment, as transformative. “With this gift, we will be able to move on to a campaign to really solidify our future finances,” he said. He also said that the institution will now be able to work on restoring community trust, which was tested when the museum sold a painting by Winslow Homer, Milking Time, 1875, and an Alexander Calder mobile to pay $20 million in bills it had racked up from its controversial 2005 expansion and renovation project.

Gerret Copeland, a former Wall Street financier and real estate developer who chairs the museum’s board of trustees, is the grandson of Louisa du Pont Copeland, who helped found the institution as the Wilmington Society of the Fine Arts in honor of the illustrator Howard Pyle, who died in 1911, in 1912. For Gerret, the pledge honors his family’s legacy of supporting the museum and will hopefully inspire others to give as well. “We are a vibrant, alive active museum,” Gerret said. “We’re not just four walls with pictures on them.”

The museum plans on reapplying for accreditation. “We are in excellent shape by all accreditation standards, except financial, and we probably have to make more progress there to meet their benchmarks before we apply,” Sweet said. In 2017, the museum reported its highest attendance in more than a decade, and it plans to organize more programming that will focus on local issues and appeal to a more diverse audience. It is currently organizing three exhibitions to mark the fiftieth anniversary of Martin Luther King Jr.’s assassination and the Wilmington riots, which will open this summer. The museum is also working to expand its collection to include more works by women and artists of color.