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Gifts to Gardner endows more curators

Just over a year after opening its new wing, the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum has received gifts totaling $8 million that will endow three of the museum’s five curatorial posts. The gifts will maintain the Gardner’s commitment in these areas — contemporary art, landscape, and music — even during a financial downturn, said museum director Anne Hawley.

“It was always my dream to get these curatorial positions endowed,” she said. “What it means is that whatever the financial ebbs and flows, there will always be curatorial leadership in these program areas.”

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The museum’s curator of collections and education posts are already endowed.

The announcement comes as the Gardner moved closer to wrapping up the $180 million capital campaign it launched in 2008 as part of its expansion. As of now, $160.3 million has been raised with a planned finish in the middle of 2014. Of that total, $118 million went to the construction of the new wing, designed by Renzo Piano, and the renovation of the Gardner’s existing, historic building. An additional $46 million has been designated for endowment.

Trustee Lisa Blumenthal and her husband, Tom, contributed $3 million to endow the contemporary art program and curator post currently held by Pieranna Cavalchini. Trustee Amy Abrams and her husband, David, gave
$3 million to endow the curator of music position currently held by Scott Nickrenz. And trustee Maureen Ruettgers and her husband, Michael, contributed
$2 million to endow the curator of landscape position.

In an interview Monday, Maureen Ruettgers praised landscape curator Charles Waldheim, who she says has brought new life to the museum through programming, a residency program, and outside projects.

“I’m a passionate gardener and I just feel that we have to get away from computers and give kids the need to get outside,” said Ruettgers. “Boston has this wonderful Emerald Necklace, which the [Museum of Fine Arts] has opened up on that side. The Gardner has opened up Evans Way. And Charles, I think he’s going to mix it up.”

Ruettgers says she has been impressed to see so many college students attending the landscape lectures Waldheim has programmed. The April talk by design director George Hargreaves, whose projects include the London 2012 Olympic Park, is already sold out.

“When you used to go, you would see a lot of one age type,” said Ruettgers. “He’s brought in fabulous people and when you look up on the third floor, you see these kids, whether from Northeastern or Rhode Island School of Design. It’s a whole new wave.”

Cavalchini, who arrived at the Gardner in 1999, organizes exhibitions and oversees the museum’s residency program. Nickrenz, who has run the museum’s music program since 1990, oversaw the building of the Gardner’s new Calderwood Hall and helped launch the regular podcasts that have been downloaded millions of times, according to the museum.

Geoff Edgers can be reached at gedgers@globe.com.
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