Speed Art Museum Expands With Local Private Support

To the surprise of many, the Speed Art Museum in Louisville successfully financed a $60 million renovation without relying on so much as a dollar of public funding, Art Newspaper reports.

The museum, which reopened this weekend following renovations that increased its footprint by 75,000 square feet, tripled its gallery space, and included the addition of an art park, theater, and public plaza, pulled off the feat by aggressively courting local donors and corporations and launching a crowdfunding campaign. Over seven years, the under-the-radar institution succeeded in raising $10 million more than its original goal of $50 million — including $18 million from the Brown family, who own the Louisville-based Brown-Forman Corporation, and $10 million from physicians Elizabeth Pahk Cressman and Frederick Cressman for the art park and plaza. The Brown-Forman Corporation distillery, which produces Jack Daniel's whiskey, was one of the biggest corporate donors to the project; Heaven Hill Distilleries and Louisville Gas and Electric Co also contributed.

Louisville has "a long and strong history of philanthropy," Martha Slaughter, chair-elect of the Speed’s board, told Art Newspaper. Opened in 1927 as the J.B. Speed Memorial Museum, the institution was founded by Hattie Bishop Speed in honor of her late husband, industrialist James Breckinridge Speed.

Anonymous donors also offered a $500,000 matching gift to encourage the community to support the museum. To date, $125,000 has been raised online and through text-message donations. Museum director Ghislain d’Humières said the crowdfunding campaign is important for "the public to take ownership of the new Speed."