NEH Chairman Jon Parrish Peede (left) and Georgia O’Keeffe Museum Director Cody Hartley (right) (image courtesy the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum)

SANTA FE, New Mexico — The National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) announced this morning at the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum in Santa Fe that it would be awarding $30.9 million in grants to 188 projects across the United States. The O’Keeffe Museum was awarded a $750,000 matching grant to support its new museum campus project. Nearly 20% of the NEH grant recipients this year were “Challenge” matching grants like the one the O’Keeffe Museum was awarded. These aim to “leverage federal dollars to spur increased private investment in our nation’s libraries, museums, and cultural centers,” according to a press release from the NEH. NEH Chairman Jon Parrish Peede, who made the announcement, said they “hope to be a catalytic investor” that serves as an endorsement for the organizations they support.

The grant is a 4:1 match, so the O’Keeffe Museum will have to raise $3 million to earn the money. “It really is a challenge grant,” Cody Hartley, director of the museum, told Hyperallergic. “It’s an endorsement of their confidence in the project, and it allows me to go to funders and celebrate this news and ask them to help us. It’s wind in our sails.”

Hartley has big dreams for the future of the O’Keeffe, particularly for how its expansion can make the museum a more integral and beloved member of its community. “It’s easy to see the O’Keeffe as a museum for tourists,” he said. “We are fortunate to have a global interest in Georgia O’Keeffe’s art and life, but it’s important that we are making an impact in the community where we operate. I hope we also improve the experience of those who are visiting New Mexico, and help them understand what it is about this place that is so powerful — what drew O’Keeffe here, and what has drawn creativity and inspiration out of people here for 10,000-plus years.”

The development project is expected to take three years, and includes a new museum building, public facility, lobby space, multipurpose classroom space, enhanced gallery space, and expanded collections storage and care space. When the museum opened in 1997 its collection consisted of 40 paintings — that number has since grown to 140, plus an extensive archive and personal collection, 800 drawings, 2000 photographs, and more. “We are bursting at the seams and our galleries are beyond capacity,” said Hartley.

The same is true for the museum’s education programming. “Very practical things like a place for kids to unload from the bus and put their jackets and have lunch — right now we don’t have that.” The new center for arts education will not only provide the facilities for the museum to meet its existing programming needs, for which it currently has to borrow and lease other spaces in Santa Fe, but to expand the curriculum and scope. “The education piece is an incredibly important part of our future and potential impact,” said Hartley. The museum hopes to support New Mexico teachers and integrate arts into the curriculum, support rural school districts, and strengthen ongoing teacher education programs.

More information on the O’Keeffe Museum’s new campus plan is forthcoming. The full list of this year’s NEH grant recipients is available here.

Ellie Duke was the Southwest US editor at Hyperallergic. She also co-edits the literary journal Contra Viento. She lives in Santa Fe, NM. Find her on Twitter.