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Nelson-Atkins Receives Generous Grant from Hall Family Foundation


$4.5 Million Earmarked for Photography Department Over Three-Year Period

Kansas City, MO. Feb. 1, 2024–The Hall Family Foundation, in its continuing support of the photography program at The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art in Kansas City, has given a $4.5 million dollar grant to the museum to support the activities of the Photography Department, including staffing, research and travel, acquisitions, and the exhibition and publication program.

“I am incredibly grateful to the Hall Family Foundation for supporting our vision for the Photography program at the Nelson-Atkins,” said Julián Zugazagoitia, Director & CEO of the Nelson-Atkins. “Photography is the essential medium defining our times and a particular strength of the museum’s holdings. This generous grant will allow us to build upon our strong foundation as we plan for an exciting future.”

“This grant demonstrates how deeply we value the Photography program at the Nelson-Atkins as it plays a central role in attracting more diverse audiences now and in the future,” said Donald J. Hall, Jr., Executive Chairman of the Board of Directors of Hallmark Cards, Inc. “Our long history with the museum and this exemplary program signifies our trust in the strong leadership shown by April Watson and her staff.”

The grant will be given over the course of a three-year period. Since the transformational gift of the Hallmark Photographic Collection in December 2005, the Nelson-Atkins collection has grown to over 16,400 works spanning the history of the medium and is the largest collection at the museum. The Hall Family Foundation has provided vital support for this department since 2006. As a direct result of that support, the museum has established an exemplary exhibition and publication program, with a dedicated and talented curatorial staff who have advanced the history, understanding and appreciation of photography for local, regional, national, and international audiences.

“We are committed to building on our respected legacy and strong foundation in alignment with the museum’s mission to support and learn from our audiences and communities,” said April Watson, Senior Curator, Photography. “Thanks to the generous support of the Hall Family Foundation, we are poised to become an indispensable and vibrant resource for photography in the Midwest, nationally, and internationally.”

The excellence of the Nelson-Atkins’s Photography program has been built through the shared commitment and foresight of the museum and the Hall Family Foundation, which is led by President Mayra Aguirre.

“We are delighted to continue investing in the museum and this collection. The stories photography can tell are of vital importance in connecting people as well as providing an accessible gateway to the arts,” said Aguirre. “The Foundation wholeheartedly supports the museum’s goals in connecting with the many interests of our ever-changing audiences and making art accessible to the community.”

Hallmark Cards, Inc. has been involved in the fine arts since the late 1940s, when company founder J. C. Hall envisioned a series of competitions and traveling exhibitions of contemporary art. In 1949, Hallmark organized its first International Art Award competition, opened to artists in France and the United States. An exhibition of the winning works toured nationally, with proceeds benefiting the American Red Cross. This was followed by four subsequent competitions, ending in 1960. By that time, the Hallmark Art Collection held a larger and more varied collection of contemporary paintings than some museums and almost any other American corporation.

David L. Strout played a central role in Hallmark’s involvement with photography. He proposed the establishment of the Hallmark Photographic Collection in the fall of 1968. Ten years later, Strout hired Keith F. Davis as curator of the Hallmark Fine Art collections. Davis, with the support of Hallmark and the Hall Family Foundation, built the collection from 650 works by 35 photographers to number 6,500 prints by 900 photographers by 2005, when the Hallmark Photographic Collection was transferred to the museum. Davis continued to oversee the collection’s growth over the next 14 years, more than doubling its size.

In 1966, J. C. Hall’s son, Donald J. Hall, assumed the role of company president and CEO and soon put his imprint on the firm’s corporate and cultural profile. His artistic interests were broad, including architecture, jazz, photography, sculpture, and African art. He served as a Trustee of the Nelson-Atkins from 1980 to 2011. His son, Donald J. Hall, Jr. has been a museum Trustee since 2016.

The Photography department is currently led by April Watson, Senior Curator, and staffed by Marijana Rayl, who was recently promoted to Assistant Curator, Tara Brungardt, Senior Collections Manager, Saori Lewis, Conservator, and Julie Weber, Curatorial Assistant. Upcoming exhibitions include To Prove that I Exist: Melissa Shook’s Daily Self-Portraits, 1972-1973, which opens March 9 and runs through August 4.

Photo credit: Beth Byers

The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art

The Nelson-Atkins in Kansas City is recognized nationally and internationally as one of America’s finest art museums. The museum opens its doors free of charge to people of all backgrounds.

The Nelson-Atkins serves the community by providing access to its renowned collection of more than 42,000 art objects and is best known for its Asian art, European and American paintings, photography, modern sculpture, and Native American and Egyptian galleries. Housing a major art research library and the Ford Learning Center, the Museum is a key educational resource for the region. In 2017, the Nelson-Atkins celebrated the 10-year anniversary of the Bloch Building, a critically acclaimed addition to the original 1933 Nelson-Atkins Building.

The Nelson-Atkins is located at 45th and Oak Streets, Kansas City, MO. Hours are 10 a.m.–5 p.m. Saturday, Sunday and Monday, 10 a.m.–9 p.m. Thursday and Friday, closed Tuesday and Wednesday. Admission to the museum is free to everyone. For museum information, phone 816.751.1ART (1278) or visit nelson-atkins.org.

For media interested in receiving further information, please contact:

Kathleen Leighton, Manager, Media Relations and Video Production
The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art