The Farnsworth Art Museum (Rockland, Maine) has announced the completion of a four-year fundraising campaign to strengthen the museum, allowing it to better serve its growing audiences locally, regionally, and across the nation. Entitled “Building Tomorrow’s Farnsworth,” gifts to the campaign increased the museum’s endowment, satisfied a long-term legacy debt, and enhanced its financial operations.
“The Farnsworth ends this year stronger than ever because of one reason: The goodwill of its donors,” commented Farnsworth Board President Gerald A. Isom. “We managed to get through the raindrops without getting soaked, thanks to the excellent support of our museum members, friends, foundations, and community organizations.”
As part of the campaign, contributors donated more than $2.2 million to permanently fund the Phyllis Wyeth Chair for Learning and Engagement at the Farnsworth, an enthusiastic affirmation of support for the museum’s nationally recognized education programs. As the first director, Gwendolyn Loomis Smith, who joined the Farnsworth in 2021, will lead the museum’s efforts in education, community outreach, and collaborative partnerships.
The museum also upgraded its facilities with improvements to its auditorium, including audiovisual capabilities, its native gardens on Main Street and along the walk to the Wyeth Center, created new audio tours, and many other campus improvements. The Farnsworth’s online experience was also enhanced with a new digital learning studio and investments in technology and marketing.
Closed just 101 days in 2020, the Farnsworth lifted all pandemic restrictions in June of 2021. Prior to the pandemic, the museum served some 72,000 visitors. Visitation is now rebounding with last summer’s attendance surpassing seasonal admissions from 2020. During the pandemic, online attendance grew dramatically with online lectures, events, and art classes.
“The crisis pushed us to be creative and flexible, and it certainly underscored the need to strengthen and sustain our institution to meet future challenges and opportunities,” said Farnsworth Director Christopher J. Brownawell.
Philanthropic support also helped the museum look forward to the future. The Farnsworth recently completed a two-year master planning process that includes a comprehensive survey of all buildings and structures on its architecturally diverse campus in the heart of Rockland. The plan also provides a framework for future capital improvements and investments. The Olson House—a National Historic Landmark in Cushing and the subject of more than 300 works by Andrew Wyeth—is also among the top priorities.
In 2019, the Farnsworth received a prestigious Save America’s Treasures grant from the National Park Service, enabling it to conduct a historic structures assessment. This assessment will guide restoration and preservation efforts at the house, portions of which likely date to the late 18th century.
“The Farnsworth’s community of supporters responded to the museum’s needs with the grit and determination legendary of Mainers,” said Isom. “It has been a transformative time, one which will be remembered for the individuals and groups whose generosity ensured a bright future for the Farnsworth and expanded its ability to serve its community.”
Founded in 1948, the Farnsworth was the first museum in Maine to be accredited by the American Alliance of Museums, in 1973, and provides an annual economic impact of $58 million to the region. Visit the art museum online at farnsworthmuseum.org.
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