Ulla Searing Endows Ringling Museum Curator of Collection Position with $2.5 Million
SARASOTA, Fla. – July 5, 2007 – Philanthropist Mrs. Ulla R. Searing today announced a $2.5 million pledge to endow the Curator of Collections position at The John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art. The gift is eligible for a 100 percent match by the State of Florida making its potential $5 million.
To honor Mrs. Searing, the curatorial position will be named the “Ulla R. Searing Curator of Collections”.
“The curator of collections position that I am supporting oversees Mr. Ringling’s museum and mansion,” Mrs. Searing said. “My gift will guarantee that the position always be filled by a distinguished scholar and historian to protect and enhance Mr. Ringling’s dream for many generations.”
The endowment is designed to cover the salary, expenses, research, support and programming associated with the curator of collections position. It enables the curator to oversee effectively the activities of the curatorial department for the Museum of Art and Cà d’Zan.
“Florida State University is deeply grateful to Ulla Searing for her commitment to the arts and education,” said FSU President T.K. Wetherell. “Thanks to her ongoing generosity, the Ringling Museum is poised to grow on an international scale. With the Museum's new structures and the Curator of Collections position, it is now one of the leading university museums in the country. Through the Museum's commitment to cultural education, it is an integral element of Florida State University's Pathways of Excellence initiative.”
“Mrs. Searing’s generous gift will guarantee that this important post at the Ringling Museum is afforded the necessary resources to foster the highest level of scholarship and curatorial pursuits,” said Executive Director Dr. John Wetenhall. “The impact of Mrs. Searing’s gift is far-reaching and it will help shape the Museum’s future.”
Since March 2006, Dr. Stephen Borys has served as the Museum’s curator of collections and he will be the first beneficiary of the Ulla R. Searing Curatorship Fund. Dr. Borys received his Ph.D. in Art History from McGill University, Montréal and his Masters degree in Art History from the University of Toronto. Prior to Sarasota, he was curator at the Allen Memorial Art Museum, Oberlin College, Ohio, where he also taught in the Art History Department. Before that, Dr. Borys was a curator at the National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa.
“I am honored to be the beneficiary of such a prominent gift,” Borys said. “Mrs. Searing has been a tremendous supporter of the Museum and this gift is especially significant in ensuring the Museum’s exceptional curatorial performance is visible on an international scale.”
Mrs. Searing is Swedish born. She along with Arthur F. Searing, her husband of 30 years who died in 1983, arrived in Sarasota in 1973 and shared their time between Sarasota in the winter and Southampton, Long Island in the summer. When her husband retired, they explored the world and experienced the famous museums, historical and cultural centers in all the countries they visited. They collected volumes of books on their interests with respect to history and art of the country in question. These long standing interests have played an important role in Mrs. Searing’s philanthropic decisions. She has also many substantial planned gifts to organizations including the Sarasota Opera, Youth Opera, Sarasota Ballet, Asolo Repertory Theater and The John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art.
Mrs. Searing is also a supporter of higher education. She has given to the Ringling College of Art & Design and to the New College Foundation and to her husband’s alma mater, Lehigh University.
At 94 years old, she continues to be an active supporter of Sarasota’s arts community. She bequeathed $6.5 million in February 2005 helping to complete John Ringling’s dream to expand the 21-gallery Museum of Art with a new wing for traveling exhibitions. The wing was named the Ulla R. and Arthur F. Searing Wing and opened in February 2007.
Mrs. Searing also supported the Ringling Circus Museum’s Tibbals Learning Center, which opened in January 2006.
The act of endowing museum positions, such as the curator, is common among museums. Howard Tibbals endowed the Ringling Museum’s Tibbals Curator of the Circus Museum position currently filled by Deborah W. Walk. Dr. Helga Wall-Apelt included an endowment of $4 million in her pledge in January 2006 for a Curator of Asian Art to be filled in coming years.
# # #