William & Mary will continue to build on its legacy as the first university in the U.S. to teach and collect art, thanks to a $2.5 million commitment from Joe and Sharon Muscarelle to expand the Muscarelle Museum of Art.
It has become a Muscarelle family tradition to support the museum. Joe Muscarelle’s parents, Joseph ’27 and Margaret Muscarelle, were instrumental in the university establishing the art museum in the 1980s so that it could house prestigious exhibits and collections and serve as a laboratory for students to immerse themselves in the study of art.
It was the Muscarelles' vision that led to the creation of the museum and why it bears the family name.
“My mother and father would be proud of this museum today,” said Joe Muscarelle. “The most compelling reason for our involvement is that we want to perpetuate my mother and father’s legacy, and make their memory ever-present with something tangible.”
This latest Muscarelle gift is one of the largest ever given to the museum. The funding will provide much-needed resources for the museum to enhance and expand its facilities.
As part of the gift, Joe and Sharon Muscarelle have launched a $500,000 challenge and will match all new gifts for the Muscarelle capital building project through June 30, 2020.
“Our community thrives when great art is in our midst, and we can all thank the Muscarelles for helping enrich our campus on this score,” said William & Mary President Taylor Reveley. “Their generosity has allowed William & Mary to create a very significant university art museum, one that has brought to our community some of the most extraordinary exhibitions of recent years presented anywhere in the country.”
The Muscarelle Museum of Art has featured exhibitions on Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci and Caravaggio, among others, and has been voted the best art museum in Virginia by a statewide readers poll for two consecutive years. The museum collection now features more than 5,000 works of art and hundreds of thousands of visitors from around the globe set foot in the space annually.
While the museum itself is only 32 years old, William & Mary received its first gift of art in 1732. It was around this time that the university became the first in the U.S. to advance the study of art. For centuries, William & Mary amassed a fine and growing collection of art without a museum to safely and securely hold the artwork until 1983, when the museum was first established.
“The famous Georgia O’Keeffe painting White Flower found a permanent home when Joe’s parents invested in the museum years ago. With this generous gift, many other treasured art collections can be preserved, protected and on display for students, faculty, friends and the public alike,” said Muscarelle Museum Director and CEO Aaron De Groft ’88. “I look forward to working with Joe and Sharon on efforts to strengthen the museum’s foundation in the years ahead.”
Joe and Sharon Muscarelle, who currently reside in Florida, became engaged with the museum nearly 10 years ago when they first learned about significant cuts in university funding from the state. Since then, they have both been involved in many different capacities, from leading and sponsoring functions in honor of the museum – they were honorary chairs of the 25th anniversary celebration – to taking an active role on the museum’s board. Sharon Muscarelle is currently a sitting member on the Muscarelle Museum of Art Foundation Board of Trustees.
“Sharon and I want to be part of the enthusiasm, vitality, persistence and dedication of everyone involved with this museum to make it one of the best on any university campus and in the art world,” added Joe.
Private support has allowed the museum to extend the collection beyond its roots in American portraiture; artwork in the collection now spans several centuries, including works by Hans Hofmann, Pablo Picasso, Henri Matisse and John Singleton Copley.
“William & Mary has a long tradition of celebrating and embracing the arts and this remarkable gift from Joe and Sharon will undoubtedly elevate our stature in this area for generations to come,” said Matthew T. Lambert ’99, vice president for university advancement. “The Muscarelle Museum of Art is a campus treasure and we are excited to see its growth in the future. We are very grateful for their continued support over the years."