LARAMIE -- An anonymous gift of $2.27 million will create the Susan B. Moldenhauer Fund for Contemporary Art for the University of Wyoming Art Museum.
"This generous gift ensures that the museum's strong programming in contemporary art will continue in the future," says Susan Moldenhauer, director of the UW Art Museum and the fund's namesake. "One of the three key areas on which the exhibition program is developed -- contemporary art -- and the visiting artists and related public programming it enables allows the museum to introduce new approaches to the creative process, advancing technologies in art-making, and relevant issues and topics that reflect our time."
The Moldenhauer FUNd supports the Art Museum's national and international contemporary art program, which includes exhibitions, commissions, publications, visiting artists and scholars, symposia, workshops, curatorial research and travel. Contemporary art is loosely defined as art produced by living artists.
"This gift is extraordinary, as it will transform the future of contemporary art at the University of Wyoming," UW President Laurie Nichols says. "On behalf of the university, I would like to thank the donor for this major philanthropy. Support like this will allow the Art Museum to expand its program in art and, in doing so, enrich the lives of many students and citizens. For this, we are most grateful."
The fund will transform the museum's ability to research and support the work of national and international contemporary art. It will support the museum's foundational premise of introducing art not otherwise available in Wyoming for study, research and interdisciplinary dialogue.
The mission of the UW Art Museum includes presenting world-class art and developing programs that engage students and visitors of all ages in discussions that broaden an understanding of diverse perspectives, viewpoints and cultures.
"The Art Museum is the only museum in the state of Wyoming that focuses on contemporary art from national and international perspectives, which is essential to broadening visual art experiences for our students, faculty, citizens and visitors," Moldenhauer says.
The UW Art Museum has presented art to the people of Wyoming since its opening in 1972. Originally housed in the lower level of the Fine Arts Building, the museum moved to the Centennial Complex in 1993. The museum's statewide programs -- the Ann Simpson Artmobile and the Regional Touring Exhibition Service -- were created in 1982 and have been continuously serving the state ever since. The award-winning Artmobile program offers class- and community-based experiential learning opportunities with a museum educator.
Today, the Art Museum houses a collection of nearly 8,000 original art objects and hosts an average of 18 exhibitions a year. Extensive education programs take place year-round, with classes for all ages that use the exhibitions as original resource material for learning. The museum operates with a full-time staff of 11, a National Advisory Board of up to 23 and the support of many volunteers, donors and friends.
The museum's "museum as classroom" approach places art at the center of learning for all ages, supports the academic mission of the university, assists in preparing the future workforce with essential skills, and enhances the cultural life of Wyoming's citizens and visitors.
Recent notable contemporary art exhibitions at the Art Museum, each with significant public programming, include "Emancipating the Past: Kara Walker's Tales of Slavery and Power" (spring 2016); "WASTE LAND: A Survey of Work by Brandon Ballengée, 1996-2016" (fall 2016); "Hung Liu: American Exodus" (currently on view); "Divine Ammunition: The Work of Al Farrow" (fall 2017); and "Papel Chicano Dos: Works on Paper from the Cheech Marin Collection" (fall 2017).
The new endowment is named for Moldenhauer, who is a personal friend of the donor and has been director and chief curator of the UW Art Museum since 2002. She joined the Art Museum in 1991 as curator of museum programs and is a practicing fine art photographer.
Moldenhauer's curatorial expertise is in contemporary art, and she has curated numerous major solo exhibitions for the Art Museum by such artists as Kwang-Young Chun, Willie Cole, Anne-Karin Furunes, Michiko Itatani, Luis Jiminez, Jun Kaneko, Dickie Landry, Hung Liu, Whitfield Lovell, Jesus Moroles, Pepon Osorio, Neltje, Ursula von Rydinsvard, Fred Sandback, Peter Sarkisian and Robert Stackhouse.
She has been integral in the development of Touchstone Laramie, the Laramie Mural Project and the Laramie Public Art Plan. Moldenhauer will retire this fall.