History

Since it was established in 1978, the Terra Foundation for American Art has been one of the leading foundations focused on supporting art of the United States.

2020–present

From our offices in Chicago and Paris, we support organizations and individuals locally and globally to expand narratives of American art, foster intercultural dialogues, and encourage collaborative practices, through our grant program, collection, and initiatives.

In 2020, we started a strategic planning process to reimagine our mission, vision, and values that will guide our future work. Our support focuses on projects that are guided by inclusive and equitable research aimed at questioning and broadening definitions of American art and transforming how the story of American art is told.

To realize our vision for our program portfolio, we are testing different approaches to grantmaking and revising our application processes. Additionally, we have expanded our support to visual art projects that reflect the full continuum of American art history.

The collection of the Terra Foundation for American Art is an inextricable part of the foundation’s history and an active agent of its global mission. The collection includes more than 750 paintings, prints, drawings, photographs, and sculptures by 242 artists working between the 1750s and the 1980s. The foundation makes its collection available throughout the world through loans and exhibitions.

Started by Daniel J. Terra in the 1970s, the Terra Foundation collection has continued to evolve up through the present. We recognize that it reflects only part of the artistic and cultural heritage of the United States and reveals current and historical inequities in the ways American art is presented, exhibited, interpreted, bought, and sold. We are committed to working alongside our partners to challenge the biases that shaped the collection and its interpretation and to reimagine ways the collection can help us question and broaden stories of American art.


2009–2020

Terra Foundation staff in Chicago and Paris continued to expand on its grant program, building networks of American art scholars and supporting exhibitions, research and teaching programs, publications, and public events through individual fellowships and grants to organizations around the world.

To support its global mission, the Terra Foundation opened the Paris Center & Terra Foundation Library for American Art, dedicated to serving a growing international community of scholars and curators as well as the public. The center provided a regular forum on the art and visual culture of the United States—the only one of its kind in Europe—through a wide variety of lectures, workshops, and symposia.

The Paris office is also home to the Terra Foundation Library of American Art, Europe’s only research library devoted exclusively to the visual arts of the United States. Specializing in the art of the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, the library contains more than 9,500 titles on painting, sculpture, and graphic arts, as well as photography and decorative arts, all of which are available online.

In Giverny, the Terra Foundation partnered with French governmental and cultural organizations, including the Département de l'Eure, the Musée d’Orsay, the Région Haute-Normandie, and the Département de la Seine-Maritime, to transition the Musée d’Art Américain Giverny into the Musée des Impressionnismes Giverny, which focuses on the history and continuing impact of the Impressionist movement.

In 2014, Terra Foundation signed an agreement transferring ownership of the the Musée des Impressionnismes Giverny to the Établissement Public de Coopération Culturelle (EPCC), a public-private partnership between the Eure and Seine-Maritime County Commissions, Haute Normandie Region, Portes de l’Eure Urban Community, the town of Vernon, the Musee d’Orsay, and the Terra Foundation. In addition to the museum buildings, the transfer consigned adjacent properties, including staff and visitor parking lots, surrounding gardens, the Vissault and Bertin estates, and “La Côte” hill. Following the transfer, the foundation collaborated with the Musée des Impressionnismes Giverny and the EPCC, which included scientific committee and board membership, as well as loaning works of art.

2004–2009

Following a comprehensive examination of ways to share American art with growing international audiences, the foundation decided to dedicate its resources to exhibitions and programs beyond the museum, and the Terra Museum of American Art that was located in Chicago closed.

A partnership with the Art Institute of Chicago was established, whereby a selection of approximately two dozen paintings from the Terra Foundation collection were placed on long-term loan to the museum, to ensure that works of American art remain accessible to the public (this program remains ongoing).

In 2005, the Terra Foundation inaugurated an expanded grant program, providing worldwide support for American art exhibitions, academic programs, and scholarship.


1996

Daniel Terra passed away, but his legacy of sharing the historical art of the United States with people around the world endured through the efforts of the foundation.


1992

Daniel Terra opens the Musée d’Art Américain Giverny, located approximately 40 mi/70 km outside Paris, to showcase works of American Impressionism, as well as other artists and topics with a transatlantic focus. View the complete exhibition history here.


1987

With his collection of American art now encompassing hundreds of works of art, Daniel Terra relocated his namesake museum to an office building on Michigan Avenue in downtown Chicago. View the complete exhibition history here.


1980

The Terra Museum of American Art opened in a former flower shop in Evanston, Illinois, a northern suburb of Chicago, displaying Daniel Terra’s burgeoning collection of approximately 50 paintings and holding special exhibitions. View the complete exhibition history here.


1978

The Terra Foundation for American Art was established by businessman, art collector, and United States Ambassador-at-Large for Cultural Affairs Daniel J. Terra (1911–96), who believed that art is a dynamic and powerful expression of the nation’s history and identity. Terra believed that engagement with works of art could be a transformative experience, and throughout his lifetime he worked to share a collection of American art with audiences worldwide.