Elizabeth Glassman. Credit: Joe Mazza.

Stories & News / Press Releases

Elizabeth Glassman, President & CEO of Terra Foundation for American Art, Announces She Will Step Down; Announcement Coincides with the Foundation Exceeding $100 Million in Grants Given

March 13, 2019

Chicago, IL—Elizabeth Glassman, who has served as President & CEO of the Terra Foundation for American Art for nearly two decades, announced today that she will step down, effective upon the Foundation’s appointment of her successor.

During her tenure, Glassman led a revisioning of the Foundation’s operational model, which resulted in the global circulation of important works of American art from the Foundation’s 800-object collection and the establishment of a grants program that has to-date awarded more than $100 million for the creation of approximately 1,000 exhibitions and programs in 31 countries. The Foundation’s approach leverages both its extensive collection and granting capacity to bring the art of the United States to a wide range of audiences, spurring important dialogues on visual culture, national identity, and the importance of building connections across places and peoples. The Terra Foundation is launching an international search for Glassman’s successor, with the goal of having a new President & CEO in place by early 2020.

“We are deeply grateful for Liz’s visionary leadership of the Terra Foundation. Her passion, commitment, and belief in the power of mission-driven philanthropy has resulted in important collaborations with organizations and institutions worldwide, establishing new opportunities for cultural leaders, researchers, students, and the public to experience American art and fostering dialogues about the role of art in developing cultural understanding and diplomacy,” said Joseph P. Gromacki, chair of the Terra Foundation board and senior partner at Jenner & Block LLP. “Her boldness of vision has set the Terra Foundation on a trajectory of innovation and experimentation that prioritizes our cultural partners and the connections that can be made across cultures and communities. With the course she has set, we are excited for the Terra Foundation’s next chapter and to continuing to innovate to fulfill our mission.”

When Glassman first joined the Terra Foundation in 2001, the organization was principally focused on running its museums in Chicago and Giverny, France. In 2005, under Glassman’s leadership, the Foundation made the critical decision to shift its operating model in order to realize its mission—of increasing access to and creating new experiences with American art—on a global scale. In closing its two museums, the Foundation established a new model that would extend its reach well beyond the walls of its museums, allowing it to more actively circulate the works in its collection, initiate exhibitions and projects with a wide range of partners, and further develop its granting capacity to support financially the scholarship and innovations of cultural entities across the U.S. and abroad. Together, these multi-tiered activities have expanded awareness and understanding of the visual art and culture of the United States and led to the creation of exhibitions at more than 300 different venues across the world, which have been seen by more than 42 million people—many of whom did not previously have access to American art.

“Philanthropy, when it’s driven by a clear sense of purpose, can be a living experience, growing as conversations develop and new opportunities arise. Our vision has been to tell the narrative of the United States through its art, and at the same time to ask and understand the stories, visual and otherwise, that underlie the cultures of other places. These exchanges have been spurred by a broad portfolio of activities, from supporting major exhibitions and presenting our collection worldwide, to supporting global professorships on American art, and creating a dynamic citywide initiative in Chicago. Together, they have allowed us to establish projects that both speak to the moment and serve as building blocks to future endeavors,” said Glassman. “While we have made fundamental shifts in our approach to better serve our mission and the needs of the many cultural partners with whom we’ve collaborated, there remains much to do as the field of cultural philanthropy continues to rapidly evolve and the need for dialogue and mutual understanding becomes ever more important. Art has the power to start and propel conversation, and I very much look forward to the Terra Foundation’s ongoing leadership in creating and supporting the platforms that make these necessary discussions possible.”

Since 2005, the Terra Foundation has established a wide-range of initiatives that have both strengthened existing scholarship and yielded entirely new research on American art, enhancing awareness of its depth and diversity. In 2006, the Foundation established the Terra Collection Initiatives to expand opportunities for audiences to engage with its extensive and growing collection. The initiative’s first programmatic partnership was with Musée du Louvre, which resulted in the creation of American Artists and the Louvre, an exhibition and accompanying catalogue. The project marked the first time that American art was shown at the Louvre and engaged with a key tenet of the Terra Foundation’s vision—to bring American art to new audiences.

This effort has led to other important Terra Collection Initiatives presentations, including the 2013 exhibition Art Across America, the first major survey of historical American art mounted in South Korea, and Picturing the Americas: Landscape Painting from Tierra del Fuego to the Arctic, the first exhibition to examine landscape paintings from the early 19th century to the early 20th in an inclusive, pan-American context, with stops at the Art Gallery of Ontario, Toronto (2015), Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, Bentonville, Arkansas (2016), and Pinacoteca de São Paulo, São Paulo (2016).

To deepen the development of international partnerships in Europe, Glassman worked with leadership in and outside of the Foundation to establish the Paris Center & Library, which opened in 2009. The Paris Center & Library houses the only research library in Europe devoted exclusively to American art and serves as a space for dialogue on American art and visual culture. Holdings consist of nearly 10,000 books and catalogs on painting, sculpture, and graphic arts, as well as photography and decorative arts, all of which are also available online.

With its expansive global reach, the Terra Foundation has remained committed to supporting the cultural fabric of its home city of Chicago. Important works from the Terra Foundation’s collection of American art are displayed at the Art Institute of Chicago for the benefit of the public. In 2014, Glassman, in collaboration with staff and board, began conceptualizing an initiative that would reveal Chicago as an important center for the creation, production, and dissemination of innovations in art and design. Following listening sessions with local cultural institutions, the Foundation, joined by other funders, committed to investing $8 million in bringing Art Design Chicago to fruition. Working with approximately 95 cultural partners, the initiative yielded 40 exhibitions, hundreds of public programs, and numerous scholarly publications, which opened and were produced throughout 2018. The major city-wide undertaking, which highlighted important and little-known narratives in Chicago’s art and design history and included the work of more than 700 artists from the city, resulted in approximately 2.5 million visitors to the featured exhibitions and programs.

The Terra Foundation is also deeply committed to education, and has over the last 15 years established programs to support K-12 students, graduate and postdoctoral candidates, and emerging and establishing scholars. The Foundation’s Fellowships and Teaching Professorships connect students and scholars with its rich network of partners, providing opportunities for academic awards, residencies, travel grants, and visiting professorships. This international network, which to date stands at more than 500 scholars, are working at the highest level of teaching and publishing to promote American art within universities worldwide. In addition, through its Chicago K–12 Education Grants, the Foundation supports the development and dissemination of a wide range of American art instructional materials for the classroom, including web-based resources, study guides, and lesson plans. Its American Art at the Core of Learning (AACL) program offers resources and strategies to connect K–12 English language-arts standards in use throughout the United States with the experience of American art.

The Terra Foundation has also recognized the importance of increasing engagement through the use of digital tools, and has partnered with the Smithsonian Institution’s Archives of American Art to transform access to the Archives’ primary source material. The Terra Foundation awarded the Archives a multimillion-dollar grant to establish a digitization program that would deliver free online access to the Archives’ collections, allowing individuals in all parts of the world to engage with the content. To-date, the Terra Foundation has given more than $10 million toward these programs, which live within the Terra Foundation Center for Digital Archives at the Archives of American Art. An important research tool, the Center has logged nearly 9 million sessions (visits), from 2004 through the end of 2018.

Prior to joining the Terra Foundation, Glassman worked with numerous museums and collections, including the Menil Collection, in Houston; the Metropolitan Museum of Art, in New York; and the National Gallery of Art, in Washington, DC. With expertise in prints, drawings, and photographs, she has authored many articles and catalogues, including Cliché-verre: Hand-Drawn, Light-Printed: A Survey of the Medium from 1839 to the Present (1981) and O’Keeffe on Paper (2000). Glassman established the Georgia O’Keeffe Foundation and served as its president before coming to the Terra Foundation. In 2012, she was awarded the distinction of Officier dans l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres by the French Ministry of Culture for her significant contribution to furthering the arts in France and throughout the world. In 2013, she was elected to the Board of Directors of the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art and the Robert Rauschenberg Foundation. Glassman holds master’s degrees in both business administration and art history.