The National Gallery of Art announced today that the Walton Family Foundation—a philanthropic organization established by Walmart founders Sam and Helen Walton—has gifted the institution $10 million in honor of American art scholar and museum professional John Wilmerding.
A Walton Foundation board member, Alice Walton, said, “Through John’s efforts at the National Gallery of Art, there has been a renewed interest in American artists and their work.”
The grant will establish the John Wilmerding Fund for Education in American Art, which will support new programs, academic internships, digital initiatives, and an annual symposium. The inaugural Wilmerding Symposium will be take place in October.
Director of the National Gallery, Earl A. Powell III, said that Wilmerding is “one of the nation’s pre-eminent American art scholars” and that the fund will “significantly strengthen the gallery's efforts to engage our visitors and expand our reach to new audiences in educating them about this country’s rich artistic heritage.”
Wilmerding started working at the National Gallery in 1977 as its first curator of American art and would later be promoted to senior curator. He became deputy director in 1983 and would lead the institution for five years before leaving to work as a professor at Princeton University. From 2005 to 2013, Wilmerding returned to the gallery to serve as a trustee, during which time he spent five years as chairman. He has contributed to numerous exhibitions and publications and serves as a trustee for the Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation, the Wyeth Foundation for American Art, and the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art. In 2004, he promised the National Gallery of Art a gift of fifty works of nineteenth-century American art from his own collection.