PULLMAN, Wash.-- WSU’s Museum of Art ranks eleventh in the Pac-12 in terms of square footage, but that may change with the help of a $5 million donation from arts patron Jordan Schnitzer.
President Elson S. Floyd and museum director Chris Bruce announced the gift, the largest private donation to the arts in WSU history, and thanked Schnitzer at a gathering in the museum Tuesday.
Schnitzer, president of Harsch Investment properties, said private donations are critical to helping universities thrive.
“The day and age where the states have the funding to provide the excellence that these institutions need is behind us,” he said.
Art gives people a chance to think independently and find their own meaning, Schnitzer said, and he wants every student to make the museum part of their life.
“Art is a refuge for everyone, whether they’re two or 102,” Schnitzer said.
His donation leaves $6 million to be raised before the new museum can be built. Bruce said they hope to have the total $15 million by June 2015.
The new museum will nearly triple the size of the current single-gallery space, Bruce said, allowing more flexibility in highlighting the permanent collection of about 2,500 works plus temporary exhibitions.
It will be located next to its current location in the Fine Arts building, replacing the Public Safety building. University spokesperson Kathy Barnard said no decision has been made yet on where the campus police station will relocate to.
Floyd said it was important to keep the museum in the heart of campus, calling it “a wonderful gateway” alongside popular locations such as the CUB and athletic buildings.
The museum will also provide access to the arts for the community, including elementary and high school students, Floyd said. He praised Schnitzer for his commitment to sharing art instead of keeping it “in a basement someplace.”
“I cannot think of a better ambassador for the arts in our country than Jordan Schnitzer,” Floyd said. “And there is no doubt the Schnitzer name will be synonymous to museums as the Carnegie name is to libraries.”
Schnitzer was also the major donor to the University of Oregon’s art museum, which is named after him.
Part of Schnitzer’s art collection is featured in the WSU Museum of Art’s current exhibit, “Made in U.S.A.: Rosenquist/Ruscha.”
Bruce had lowered the fundraising goal to $8.5 million from $20 million earlier this year, but said Schnitzer’s donation helped them feel more optimistic.
Bruce estimated it will be at least two years before construction can begin on the project. In March, the museum hired Olson Kundig Architects to design the new building. Olson Kundig is based in Seattle and also worked on the new WSU Visitor Center.
Schnitzer, whose mother owns an art gallery and has been friends with Bruce for decades, said he was honored to help the arts at WSU.
“While I appreciate President Floyd talking about a five million (dollar) gift, I’d like to see it’s a gift of a dollar to five million people--students, young, old, they’ll experience this museum,” he said.