Announced last September, the campaign will make it possible for the museum to operate independently of the Muskegon school district, which has run the museum for a hundred years but decided in 2011 that it could no longer support the museum at an annual cost of $100,000 in school operating funds. The museum will become independent of the district as of June 30, 2014.
Contributions ranging from $100 to $1 million have been received from two hundred and nineteen donors, executive director Judith Hayner told MLive.com. The Community Foundation for Muskegon County and Larry Hines, chairman of the museum foundation's board and co-chair of the campaign, each gave $1 million, while the museum's staff and board have contributed nearly $911,000. Donations from other foundations total nearly $1.1 million to date.
The museum was created in 1910 to house paintings purchased with a trust fund bequeathed to the school district by local philanthropist Charles H. Hackley, who stipulated that the fund be used to "buy pictures of the best kind." The museum was renamed in 1980 upon completion of a $1.6 million addition funded by the L.C. & Margaret Walker Foundation. "This museum is truly valued and understood to be the asset it is for the entire community and the region," said Hayner. "I think this level of support proves that."