$12 Million Gift To Muskegon Museum of Art Boosts Michigan’s Status in Promoting Art by Women

The Muskegon Museum of Art will soon be home to one of the only museums in the world to have a permanent space dedicated solely to the work of women artists, thanks to gifts totaling $12 million from two of the country’s leading art collectors.

More than 150 works of art – painted by women in the figurative realist style – have been given to the Muskegon Museum of Art by art collectors and champions of gender equality, Steven Alan Bennett and Dr. Elaine Melotti Schmidt. Their donation also includes a $1.5 million cash gift towards the highly anticipated and much-needed museum expansion that will more than double the size of the museum, adding three new rotating galleries, two classrooms, rooftop terrace, museum store, connecting and support space and a public plaza.

The donation will position Muskegon among fewer than five museums in the world that have dedicated spaces for displaying the work of women.

150 works of art by 115 different artists, including Artemisia Gentileschi, Mary Cassatt, Agnes Martin, Elaine de Kooning, Harmonia Rosales, Julie Bell, Andrea Kowch, Katie O’Hagan, and dozens of others representing contemporary and historical women figurative realist painters.

Bennett and Schmidt have collected figurative realist paintings by women artists since 2009 creating The Bennett Collection, and in 2018 established The Bennett Prize — a $50,000 biennial award designed to propel the careers of women painters who have
not yet realized full professional recognition. It is the largest art award offered solely to women painters.

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