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Donors Enrich the Museum through Philanthropy

August 26th, 2014

Many generous donors are behind the Johnson Museum’s ability to make a difference in the lives of the nearly 100,000 people who visit each year. To ensure the long-term strength and stability of the Museum, gifts to the endowment are essential. Three recent gifts are making a major difference in how we present and interpret our permanent collection and continue to expand our creative collaborations across campus and in the community. 

Seymour R. Askin, Jr. ’47 draws great inspiration and intellectual pleasure from his passion for old master drawings and prints. A longtime advocate for, and supporter of, the Museum, Mr. Askin has been an enthusiastic member of the Museum Advisory Council since 2003. His deep appreciation for Baroque and Renaissance art, coupled with his close relationship with the Museum’s curatorial staff, recently led him to make an extraordinary gift, one that will endow the post currently held by Dr. Andrew Weislogel, now the Seymour R. Askin, Jr. ’47 Curator of Earlier European and American Art. Mr. Askin has also given the Johnson Museum important drawings by Abraham Bloemaert and Hendrick Goltzius, and contributed to the acquisition of old master prints, including a Rembrandt etching. In 2008, Mr. Askin and his wife Helen-Mae also named the Helen-Mae and Seymour R. Askin, Jr. 1947 Gallery on the second floor of the Museum, now dedicated to seventeenth-century Dutch art. The Askins’ gifts to the Museum’s permanent collection, galleries, and professional staff have built a solid foundation for teaching and research in old master art for generations to come. 

At the Museum Advisory Council meeting this spring, Mr. Askin expressed his aspiration for his gift to serve as an impetus for further contributions to the Museum’s endowment. “What I really hope is that my gift will inspire other people to endow more curatorships at the Johnson Museum,” he said. “They are so important for its future and the future of Cornell.”

C. Evan Stewart ’74, JD ’77 has been consistently involved with Cornell for decades, making his first gift upon his graduation as a history major. His love for both art and history led him to serve on the Museum Advisory Council since 2004, where his guidance and contributions have been crucial. This spring, Mr. Stewart made a very special surprise gift in honor of his wife, Trisha, when he and their daughter Charlotte unveiled the Patricia M. Stewart Gallery for Ancient Art on the second floor of the Museum in front of family, fellow Council members, Museum staff, and guests. Mr. Stewart’s gift has enabled curators to reimagine the presentation of ancient works from our permanent collection, including Greek vases, Etruscan terra-cotta, Roman portrait sculpture, and coins from ancient Greece, Rome, and Asia Minor. Visitors to the Stewart Gallery now learn about ancient art and its echoes, including the Wedgwood pottery famously inspired by Greek vase painting. “Having already established a scholarship at the Law School in honor of my father [Charles T. Stewart ’40],” explained Mr. Stewart, “I wanted to honor my wife in another part of campus that has meant so much to me.”

Joel Picket ’60 made his first gift to Cornell in 1961, and his philanthropy has benefited numerous colleges and programs in support of the humanities at Cornell since then. Mr. Picket, a Museum Advisory Council member from 1990 to 2011, and his wife, Joan, have also been generous to the Johnson Museum. Their latest gift to the Museum will be officially dedicated this fall—the Picket Family Video Gallery, named to honor the family’s three generations of Cornellians and their love for art. The Picket Gallery will exhibit video and work in new media from the permanent collection and on loan during special exhibitions. “This gallery will transform the way we can present some of the most dynamic and exciting works of our time,” says Andrea Inselmann, the Johnson’s curator of modern and contemporary art & photography, “and will serve as an extraordinary resource for our students, faculty, and visitors.”

These gifts significantly improve the way the Museum shows our permanent collection and enhance the teaching and learning experiences for the many communities we serve. They also demonstrate the trust and pride our donors have in the Museum and its ability to care for the University’s artistic treasures. 

We are honored by these tremendous gifts from the Askin, Stewart, and Picket families and are excited to celebrate how philanthropy helps the Museum reach new heights.