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The Baltimore Museum of Art (via Baltimore Heritage/Flickr)

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The Baltimore Museum of Art (BMA) has received three major gifts totaling over $1 million in support of its Endowment for the Future, a long-term financial plan meant to increase access and equity within the museum. The BMA had previously planned to fund many of the initiatives using proceeds from sales of artworks in its collection. When a proposal to deaccession a trio of modern paintings last fall came under scrutiny by local and national cultural figures in a controversy that roiled the art world, however, the museum reversed course only hours before two of the works were set to go under the hammer.

Thanks to a $1 million lead gift from philanthropist and collector Eileen Harris Norton, announced today, the Baltimore institution will be able to begin materializing some of its diversity, equity, accessibility, and inclusion (DEIA) programs without parting with the works by Brice Marden, Clyfford Still, and Andy Warhol that critics of the deaccession plan deemed “some of their most valuable.”

The paintings were expected to bring in a whopping $65 million at auction. With the sale halted, the BMA plans to fundraise and enact the plan incrementally over the course of the next three years. Harris Norton’s $1 million contribution is part of a $3 million fundraising campaign by the museum to establish and endow funds for DEIA planning.

“The reality is that fundraising is a long term investment, and any honest conversation about fundraising efforts should acknowledge that it can be particularly challenging to secure donations toward day-to-day operational costs such as those that support staff salaries and allow for changes in organizational structures,” said Christopher Bedford, BMA director, in a statement sent to Hyperallergic.

“In any campaign, the first donors to come forward are particularly important, because they give the effort momentum and encourage others to step forward with support,” he continued. “We are particularly grateful to Eileen, the Legums, and the Rouse Company Foundation for sharing in our vision and making these critical contributions. It will certainly take us longer to secure the funds to enact the Endowment for the Future in its entirety than we had projected under our original plans, but we are committed to realizing this vision in response to the necessary calls for change that have already been too long coming.”

An additional $350,000 from the Rouse Company Foundation and $110,000 from honorary trustee Jeffrey A. Legum will be used to establish evening hours and implement immediate pay increases for hourly workers, from $13.50 to $15.

“I knew the BMA was unable to accommodate an increase in the minimum wage this year so I decided to help them until they could afford it,” said Legum, who served on the BMA’s board for 23 years, in a statement. “I am glad that so many people on the staff will immediately benefit from this gift.”

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