Saturday, May 28 , 2016, 12:13 am | Fair 57º

Eichholz Foundation Pledges $5.5 Million Gift to Santa Barbara Museum of Art

The donation will endow the museum's director position

By Katrina Carl for the Santa Barbara Museum of Art |

The Santa Barbara Museum of Art is pleased to announce that a gift of $5.5 million was recently pledged by the newly formed Robert and Mercedes Eichholz Foundation to endow the museum’s director position.

Santa Barbara Museum of Art Director Larry Feinberg and Mercedes Eichholz.
Santa Barbara Museum of Art Director Larry Feinberg and Mercedes Eichholz attend the 2008 exhibition of “Merci!: Selections from the Robert B. and Mercedes H. Eichholz Collection.” (Santa Barbara Museum of Art photo)

The post, currently held by Larry Feinberg, will henceforth be known as the Robert and Mercedes Eichholz Director.

“The importance of adding stability to the museum by funding the museum director position, was key in the decision of the foundation,” foundation chairwoman Mercedes Eichholz said. “I hope this will encourage, even challenge, others in the community to step up and underwrite curatorial positions at the museum or otherwise contribute to the museum’s endowment fund.”

“This is a major, transformative gift for the museum ― it not only greatly helps the institution financially, but also an endowed director’s chair elevates SBMA’s stature, particularly, in this case, through the association with such an eminent and generous person and family in this community,” Feinberg said. “We are extremely grateful for this gift, and are proud of this enduring relationship.”

On a more personal note, Feinberg continues, “I could not be more honored and touched to have my name and position connected with someone for whom I have so much admiration and affection.”

Ken Anderson, chair of the museum’s Board of Trustees, added: “The board is immensely grateful to Mercedes and her family for their continued leadership and extraordinary generosity in helping to make the museum the premier cultural institution it is. This new commitment will greatly assist SBMA achieve its mission and goals as we approach our 75th anniversary, and we hope inspire other friends of the museum as well.”

Mercedes Eichholz and her late husband, Robert, have been active supporters of the arts for decades. The Eichholzes joined the museum when they arrived in Santa Barbara County in 1979. While continuing her active involvement with the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C., after Robert’s death in 1983, she became more active in SBMA activities, becoming a trustee at the Santa Barbara Museum of Art in 1985 and serving as president of the Board of Trustees from 2001 to 2003.

In addition, she has served on the Exhibitions and Acquisitions Committee (now called the Collections Committee) since 1984 ― chairing the committee for a number of terms ― and on the Finance, Buildings and Grounds, and Personnel Committees.

In 1989, Mercedes Eichholz turned her energies to acquiring works of art for SBMA by chairing the Arts Endowment Committee. She and her committee members, together with museum curators, succeeded in bringing in 1,600 works of art in a single year. A devotee of contemporary art, Eichholz helped found the Friends of Contemporary Art (now called The Museum Contemporaries) and supports PhotoFutures (the museum’s photography support group).

In 2008, SBMA celebrated her generosity with “Merci!: Selections from the Robert B. and Mercedes H. Eichholz Collection,” an exhibition that featured a sampling of more than 20 works of the Eichholz collection that she had either given or promised to the museum.

Mercedes Eichholz was awarded the Wright S. Ludington Award in 2000 for the extraordinary time, gifts and expertise she has given to the museum, and remains a Life Honorary Trustee.

The Robert and Mercedes Eichholz Foundation was established solely to support the arts and is overseen by its trustees, most of whom are family members. Any inquiries should be directed to Executive Director Alexa Davidson Suskin at 805.680.7579.

The Santa Barbara Museum of Art is a privately funded, nonprofit institution that provides internationally recognized collections and exhibitions and a broad array of cultural and educational activities as well as travel opportunities around the world.

The museum, at 1130 State St., is open from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Sunday. For more information, click here or call 805.963.4364.

— Katrina Carl is the public relations manager for the Santa Barbara Museum of Art.

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