Smith College Museum of Art receives $280,000 award to increase access

Visitors at Smith College Museum of Art examine work by Maren Hassinger at a 2020 exhibit entitled “Black Refractions.” The museum has just received a $280,000 award to expand its hours and programming.

Visitors at Smith College Museum of Art examine work by Maren Hassinger at a 2020 exhibit entitled “Black Refractions.” The museum has just received a $280,000 award to expand its hours and programming. Gazette file photo

Jeanne Matera looks at a painting during a Smith College Museum of Art visit on Tuesday.

Jeanne Matera looks at a painting during a Smith College Museum of Art visit on Tuesday. STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

Jeanne Matera and Janet Pawlowski look at a painting while visiting the Smith College Museum of Art on Tuesday in Northampton.

Jeanne Matera and Janet Pawlowski look at a painting while visiting the Smith College Museum of Art on Tuesday in Northampton. STAFF PHOTOgraphs/CAROL LOLLIS

Jeanne Matera looks at painting while visiting the Smith College Museum of Art on Tuesday.

Jeanne Matera looks at painting while visiting the Smith College Museum of Art on Tuesday. STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

By STEVE PFARRER

Staff Writer

Published: 11-15-2023 3:12 PM

NORTHAMPTON — Fresh from having received gifts from two alumnae that have enabled the Smith College Museum of Art (SCMA) to drop its admission fees, the museum has won additional funding to expand its programming for visitors.

The Art Bridges Foundation, which assists a range of American museums with funding, has awarded SCMA $280,000 as part of the organization’s “Access for All” initiative.

Museum officials say the monies will be used to finance extended hours, innovative programming, and student outreach — all with the goal of enabling more people to visit and appreciate SCMA.

“We are deeply grateful to our generous alums and Art Bridges for ensuring that every member of our community has access to SCMA’s inspiring collection and public programs,” SCMA Director Jessica Nicoll said in a statement.

Nicoll added that the museum has already seen a significant increase in visitation since dropping its admission fees in September and that SCMA is looking to build more “audience engagement” with the help of the Art Bridges grant.

Smith alumnae Jan Fullgraf Golann, 1971, and Jane Timken, 1964, provided the gifts that enabled SCMA to drop its entrance fees.

Art Bridges was founded in 2017 by philanthropist Alice Walton to expand access to American art across the nation, especially in rural and smaller communities where museums can struggle with funding. The goal, as the foundation puts it, is “to get art out of storage and into communities.”

“Everyone, no matter where they live, deserves access to art,” Walton said is a statement. “That’s why we started Art Bridges: to support museums in deepening their connections with local communities and to pave the way for new audiences to experience the creativity and joy that comes with seeing art.”

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Among the 60-plus museums and arts organizations that Art Bridges works with are the Springfield Museums and the Cahoon Museum of American Art on Cape Cod.

Walton, an art collector herself, is also a member of the Walton Family Foundation in Arkansas, a philanthropic endeavor started by Walmart founders Sam and Helen Walton.

Steve Pfarrer can be reached at spfarrer@gazettenet.com.