Press Room

Press Releases and Statements



Seattle Art Museum Endowment Receives $10 Million Pledge from Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation

Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation
Linda Williams
SAM Public Relations
Phone: (206) 654-3166

SEATTLE -- The Seattle Art Museum's five-year endowment campaign has received an unprecedented boost with a $10 million, two-for-one, challenge grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Brooks Ragen, president of SAM's Board of Trustees, announced today. In making this commitment, the Foundation stipulated that the museum must raise $5 million in matching funds by Dec. 31, 2000.

The Gates Foundation pledge is the largest ever to an arts organization in this community. A gift of this magnitude to an endowment campaign is particularly noteworthy. It helps create a reliable income stream to support museum operations and activities.

"We are pleased to support such a fine institution, and we hope our gift can act as a catalyst for the endowment campaign," says Patty Stonesifer, co-chair and president of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

SAM will use this landmark gift to strengthen and stabilize its education and artistic programs. SAM also has plans to create a state-of-the-art conservation department, a necessary component of a world-class museum. The Gates Foundation's challenge grant will provide momentum for these efforts.

And, in accordance with the campaign's unique Percent for Art feature, 15 percent of all endowment gifts are placed in an art acquisition endowment. The size of this gift will have an immediate impact on SAM's efforts to expand and strengthen its collection.

"The Gates Foundation pledge will generate approximately $500,000 per year and will help the museum to maintain the significant strides we have made in the areas of education and exhibitions, and will further our efforts towards innovatively using technology to enhance visitor experiences. Building an endowment is an essential part of any organization's growth," says Ragen.

The museum launched its Century Endowment Campaign in fiscal year 1996. To date, SAM has raised $31.5 million, including the Gates Foundation pledge. The campaign goal is to raise $40 million by December 2000.

"When we started this campaign, the museum's annual budget was about $9 million," says Faye Sarkowsky, chair of the endowment campaign and former president of SAM's Board of Trustees. "In the past two years we've seen significant changes in the museum's goals and level of activity, to the point that the budget for this fiscal year is $16 million. The museum's long-term objective is to cover 25 percent of its operating budget with income from its endowment, so as the budget grows, so must the endowment."

As one of the leading arts organizations in the Pacific Northwest, the Seattle Art Museum has long received remarkable community support, which has helped the institution grow at a rapid pace. Nevertheless, the museum's current endowment lags behind those of comparably sized art museums around the country. For example, the Walker Art Center's operating budget for 1998-99 is $14.3 million and its endowment stands at $160 million. You can find out more about the Seattle Art Museum on the web site.

Visit Our Blog