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UNC-Chapel Hill’s Ackland Art Museum continues expansion with major art gifts, bringing yearly gift total to $66.5 million


(Chapel Hill, N.C. – Oct. 6, 2017) – With the launch of “For All Kind: The Campaign for Carolina” earlier today, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill’s Ackland Art Museum has accepted three new major gifts – collectively valued at $41.5 million. Committed by alumni John L. Townsend III and Marree Townsend, alumnus John G. Ellison Jr., and former Ackland director Charles W. Millard III, the art gifts include diverse works from a wide array of artists that will increase the museum’s top-quality, encyclopedic collection and accelerate its mission to become the preeminent public university art museum in the country.


  • The gifts join a $25 million commitment by alumnus Sheldon Peck and his wife, Leena, in January, which included an $8 million endowment and a $17 million art gift of 134 primarily 17th-century European masterworks, including seven works by Rembrandt.


  • These commitments bring the Ackland’s grand gift total for 2017 to $66.5 million, continuing an exciting year of tremendous growth, which has brought the museum to a new level of international prominence.


  • The Townsend portion of the gift significantly enhances the Ackland’s collection of modern and contemporary art.


  • The gifts also help the museum make a significant step toward meeting its $250 million campaign goal.



  • A $25 million gift from John and Marree Townsend features a collection of 150 pieces of art by American and European modern masters, including paintings and prints by Joan Mitchell and prints of Jasper Johns’ most iconic images. Other highlights include works by Howard Hodgkin, Alex Katz, Marsden Hartley, Ad Reinhardt, Hans Hofmann, Gerhard Richter, Richard Diebenkorn, Jennifer Bartlett, Lee Krasner, Sean Scully, Anton Henning, Rachel Howard, Glenn Brown, Mark Alexander and Adrien Ghenie.


  • An $11.5 million gift from John Ellison features Joan Mitchell’s 1967 “Untitled,” a 1971 untitled oil and charcoal on paper by Willem de Kooning, and Helen Frankenthalter’s 10-foot-wide and seven-foot-tall, 1976 work “Vernal.”


  • A $5 million landmark gift from Millard encompasses his entire 375-work collection ranging from South Asian sculpture and 19th-century photographs to North Carolina pottery and 20th-century abstraction, and including early cartoons and comic strips, Byzantine earthenware of the 12th century, Japanese calligraphy and master prints from the Western tradition.



  • The gifts support the core pillars of the University’s overarching Blueprint for Next — “Of the Public, for the Public” and “Innovation Made Fundamental” — which uphold Carolina’s commitment to grow and evolve while remaining rooted in its public service mission.


  • The gifts also support a key priority in “For All Kind: The Campaign for Carolina,” Innovation and Impact: A Culture of Innovation, which aims to enhance and accelerate Carolina’s impact as an innovative and entrepreneurial research university. This includes strengthening creativity and critical thinking among students, faculty and the community through signature initiatives like Arts Everywhere.


  • The Ackland is one of 10 campus programs that have partnered to form Arts Everywhere, the University’s groundbreaking, campus-wide arts signature initiative, which seeks to revolutionize academics and enhance public service at Carolina by investing in sustained creative practice, live arts experiences and arts learning.



“These extraordinary additions to the Ackland Art Museum’s collection continue an incredible year of support for Carolina’s enduring commitment to the visual arts,” said Chancellor Carol L. Folt. “The generosity of John Ellison, Charlie Millard, and John and Marree Townsend and our Arts Everywhere initiative is making Carolina a must-experience destination for the visual arts.”


“These profoundly generous collection gifts build on a wonderful tradition of giving art collections to the Ackland, for which we are very grateful,” said Ackland Art Museum director Katie Ziglar. “Exceptional artworks such as these, by accomplished, world-renowned artists, will be tremendous resources for Carolina students in many fields for decades to come, and will excite and delight members of the public as well. Such outstanding gifts greatly enhance our ability to succeed in our mission to be the preeminent public university art museum in the country.”



John Townsend retired as a senior advisor with Tiger Management Corp. in 2015 after more than 30 years in financial management and investment banking. A Campaign for Carolina Steering Committee co-chair, Townsend serves on the Chancellor’s Philanthropic Council, the Ackland Art Museum National Advisory Board, the UNC-Chapel Hill Endowment Fund Board, the UNC-Chapel Hill Foundation Board and the UNC-Chapel Hill Investment Fund Board. He previously served on the Board of Trustees, UNC Kenan-Flagler Board of Visitors, and the 2013 Campaign Planning Cabinet. Marree Townsend owns Marree Townsend Interiors in Greenwich. She serves on the Arts & Sciences Foundation Board of Directors, the Campaign for Carolina Women’s Campaign Cabinet and the Carolina Women’s Leadership Council.


John Ellison, of Greensboro, also a Campaign for Carolina Steering Committee co-chair, is the chairman of the Ellison Co. and has served on multiple boards, including the UNC Board of Visitors and the UNC Institute for the Arts and Humanities Advisory Board. He concluded an eight-year tenure on the UNC Board of Trustees in 2011.


A 2015 UNC-Chapel Hill honorary degree recipient, Charles Millard, of Chapel Hill, served as the Ackland’s director from 1986-1993 and as a long-term member of its National Advisory Board. He has already donated more than 50 works of art to the Ackland, an impressive record further enhanced by exceptional gifts in 2008 through 2010 from his Tyche Foundation, set up specifically to acquire major works of art for the Ackland.



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About the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, the nation’s first public university, is a global higher education leader known for innovative teaching, research and public service. A member of the prestigious Association of American Universities, Carolina regularly ranks as the best value for academic quality in U.S. public higher education. Now in its third century, the University offers 77 bachelor’s, 110 master’s, 64 doctorate and seven professional degree programs through 14 schools and the College of Arts and Sciences. Every day, faculty, staff and students shape their teaching, research and public service to meet North Carolina’s most pressing needs in every region and all 100 counties. Carolina’s more than 322,000 alumni live in all 50 states, the District of Columbia and 165 countries. More than 175,000 live in North Carolina.


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