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Art museum gifted $5M, its largest single donation

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The Springfield Art Museum announced this evening it has received the largest charitable gift in its history.

The $5 million donation comes from the Sunderland Foundation of Overland Park, Kansas. The Sunderland family has a local connection, having established Ash Grove Cement.

“We can trace both our family and business roots back to Springfield and the surrounding area,” said Kent Sunderland, chair of the Sunderland Foundation, in a news release. “Sunderland family members performed on the museum’s amphitheater stage many years ago.”

The gift is intended to spur more donations for the Springfield Art Museum’s 2028 Campaign, a 30-year master plan developed in 2019, the museum’s 90th anniversary year. The campaign goal is $25 million. With the Sunderland Foundation gift, the museum has raised $9 million toward its goal, museum officials say. The master plan, in part, is designed to expand and improve the 1111 E. Brookside Drive museum.

In remarks at an announcement ceremony at 5 p.m. in the museum’s lobby, Nick Nelson, director of the Springfield Art Museum, said a successful capital campaign will benefit residents of the city and will draw visitors as well.

“We envision the Springfield Art Museum will grow to be a popular tourist foundation and a place for all our citizens and continue to be a place of pride,” Nelson said.

Mayor Ken McClure also expressed gratitude over the gift.

“This is just a fabulous way to end a very beautiful day,” McClure said.

He added, “On behalf of a grateful city of Springfield it is my honor and privilege to extend a very profound note of appreciation to the Sunderland Foundation.”

McClure told Springfield Business Journal the museum is an untapped resource in the community.

In his remarks, McClure said the city now has the opportunity to be more attractive for future generations who wish to live in Springfield, and for guests who wish to visit and businesses that want to grow and serve in the community.

“Springfield is ready for those opportunities,” McClure said. “Certainly, the art museum is a key component to creating the environment to make Springfield an even more desirable place to visit, as a hometown and a destination.”

McClure said the museum welcomed 63,000 visitors in 2019, but by the year 2028, the expectation is for over 100,000 visitors per year.

Sunderland said the gift is intended not only to honor his family’s heritage but to inspire others to give to the museum as a leader for cultural tourism, quality of place and arts education in the region.

“We are proud to be a part of launching the museum’s next 100 years of service to citizens today and for generations to come,” he said.

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