As a little girl growing up in Charlottesville, Virgina, Anne Battle's family made regular trips to Richmond to visit the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts. The Fabergé eggs were a memorable highlight, glittering behind red velvet ropes on the balcony overlooking the original 1936 entrance. Another point of connection with the museum was the Artmobile, which launched in 1953 as the nation's first mobile art museum. After several decades living in San Francisco and Chicago, Anne and her husband, Leonard Slater, relocated to Richmond in the late 1990s to find a museum that rivals cultural institutions in much larger cities.
"Those two pieces of my childhood experience with the museum have been transformed," Anne observes. "Today, a reimagined Artmobile is traveling throughout Virginia and the Fabergé collection has a new home in a suite of galleries with touch screens and so much more context. It's a wonderful example of how VMFA keeps a toehold in the past but is driving toward the future."
That future is increasingly international. By cultivating relationships with the Montreal Museum of Art, Rodin Museum, and cultural institutions in China, VMFA has been able to bring world-renowned treasures to Richmond while developing impressive homegrown exhibitions. "VMFA punches way above its weight," notes Len. "We used to be surprised to see this caliber of exhibition in Richmond—but by now we've come to expect it."
"At the same time," says Anne, "the museum is also embracing the local community. What I love is that when you come to VMFA, you see people walking their dogs, having a picnic, or working on a laptop in the café."
That's something that sets VMFA apart. "We go to galleries and museums wherever we are and VMFA is just different," remarks Len. "Art museums can feel cold, like they're only for people with a deep background in art, but VMFA is more like a magnet. It's welcoming and encourages visitors to ask questions."
Building a reputation as a top-tier museum and a neighborhood gathering space may seem like contradictory goals, but, as Anne knows, it's by design. She serves on the Board of Directors for the VMFA Foundation and was involved in development of the 2020 Strategic Plan. "Working together to build a road map for the museum's future was so energizing and it's exciting to see those aspirations becoming realized."
When the couple revised their wills a few years ago, they decided to include a bequest to benefit the museum. "No one asked us to make a planned gift," notes Len. "We took this as an opportunity to think about the people and places that matter to us and VMFA came up quite high."
"Spending time in the museum, experiencing art from such a wide variety of cultures and time periods, opens your eyes to different points of view, different ways of seeing the world," Anne explains. "That's a tremendous gift. If you value what VMFA has given you and your community, pay it forward if you possibly can."
Like Anne and Leonard, you can help VMFA build a roadmap for the museum's future through a variety of planned giving vehicles. Please reach out to Jayne Shaw at 804.340.5529 or email@example.com to learn more.
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