Henry renovation shows the benefits of partnership

Back when it was established, the University of Washington’s art museum—the Henry Art Gallery—was something to behold. The first college art museum on the West Coast, it quickly became a leader on the contemporary art scene. And it wouldn’t have been possible without the foresight and thoughtfulness of Horace C. Henry, a Seattle builder, who donated his collection of late 19th- and early 20th-century French and American landscape paintings along with $100,000 for the construction of the museum.

Henry’s gift did more than establish the museum and the UW as a beacon in the Northwest art scene. It created inspiration, a legacy that led to a $17.5 million renovation and expansion financed through a public/private partnership between the State of Washington, the UW and the Henry Gallery Association, the gallery’s fund-raising organization.

The state government contributed $8.6 million over the past three years to the project, which helped fund raisers when it came to finding private gifts. Those gifts got started with a $5 million challenge grant from the Allen Foundation for the Arts.

The Allen gift in turn inspired many more. A $1.5 million gift from the Illsley Ball Nordstrom Charitable Foundation—for a new outdoor sculpture court—enabled the Henry to meet the specifications to receive a $500,000 grant from the Kresge Foundation.

In January, Boeing announced a $1.5 million contribution toward the acquisition of the core portion of the Joseph and Elaine Monsen collection of photography. The Monsens also donated approximately $500,000 worth of their collection, one of the premier private collections of photography in the world.

The Monsens’ gift is particularly meaningful because of their UW ties. Joseph Monsen is a UW professor emeritus in the School of Business Administration and Elaine Monsen is director of the nutritional sciences program in the UW School of Public Health and Community Medicine. Their collection—which features works by such artists as Ansel Adams, Diane Arbus, Cindy Sherman and Robert Mapplethorpe—will be on display in a gallery in the original building designated specially for photography.

The Henry Gallery campaign is a textbook example of a public/private partnership that enriches our lives today and into the next century. The new Henry is once again something to behold. Horace would have been very proud.