In 1961, Ellnora and Herman Krannert donated one million dollars to the university for the construction of an art museum. Herman Krannert said of the donation: “I wanted to do something for the university…which the university could not do for itself. The curriculum of the colleges is rather stringent on technical data and we feel that the cultural phases of life are very helpful in developing the individual” (Scheinman 39).
Krannert Art Museum initially maintained an operating budget that allowed for normal services such as exhibitions and lectures but had to rely on donations or unrestricted gifts to purchase new art for the collection. While Ellnora Krannert provided the museum with an additional one million dollars in 1965 to acquire historic artwork, the museum also enjoyed other sizeable gifts from individual donors such as George Bickford, Theresa and Harlan Moore, and members from the Class of 1908.
Through the perseverance of supporters, the university’s art collection has grown enormously from the time of Regent Gregory’s gallery. Today, a significant part of the museum’s permanent collection of approximately 10,000 works of art is displayed in ten galleries, ranging from ancient Egyptian art to contemporary photographs.
In addition, the museum presents twelve to fifteen changing exhibitions each year, highlighting works from the permanent collection and also featuring works of art from other museums and collections, both nationally and internationally.
Educating the public about a range of art from all periods and providing an instructional laboratory for students and instructors drive the museum’s collection vision. Krannert Art Museum serves a wide and varied audience—including the faculty, staff, and students of the University of Illinois, the Urbana-Champaign communities, and the people of Central Illinois. Partnerships and collaborations with schools, community groups, campus units, and individuals allow the museum staff and programs to serve, engage, and involve this wide audience of over 132,000 annual visitors.
The museum’s building was designed by architect Ambrose Richardson in a style reminiscent of the late work of Ludwig Mies van der Rohe. In 1988 a new wing was dedicated, the Kinkead Pavilion, nearly doubling the building’s size to 63,000 square feet and making Krannert Art Museum the second largest general fine arts museum in the state of Illinois. This addition was the creation of architect Larry Booth and Associates. The building incorporates neo-Egyptian decorative elements in an overall post-modernist design.
Most text courtesy Krannert Art Museum