Contact: Kristen Levesque
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SHELBURNE, Vt. (November 15, 2021) Shelburne Museum announced today the creation of two major endowments that support vital areas of the institutionؙ—the directorship and American paintings. The two endowments provide crucial long-term support for the museum and contribute to the sustainability of Vermont’s foremost public resource for visual art and material culture.

The $5.25 million John Wilmerding endowment supports the director’s position at the museum and provides additional funding for exhibitions and special projects. The endowment is named in honor of John Wilmerding, a renowned American art scholar and Shelburne Museum trustee emeritus. Completion of the fund was substantially enabled by a $1 million challenge grant from the Alice L. Walton Foundation.

The Judith and James Pizzagalli American Paintings Endowment is a $2.5 million fund dedicated to acquisition and exhibition of American paintings that will ensure continued groundbreaking and world-class offerings at the museum. Shelburne, Vermont, residents Judith and James Pizzagalli are longtime supporters of Shelburne Museum. 

“The John Wilmerding Directorship and the Judith and James Pizzagalli American Paintings Endowment dovetail perfectly, not only with the emphasis on American paintings, but also in supporting areas of the institution that are vital to its mission,” said Thomas Denenberg, John Wilmerding Director. “Both contribute in a significant way to the sustainability of Shelburne Museum. We are incredibly grateful for the generosity of the Pizzagallis, Alice L. Walton Foundation and the many dedicated donors who participated in meeting the Walton challenge.”

The John Wilmerding Fund, honors Wilmerding’s leadership at the museum and recognizes his role in shaping the field of American art. The endowment links his decades-long legacy at Shelburne and his remarkable contribution to the field with Shelburne Museum, which was founded by his grandmother, Electra Havemeyer Webb (1888-1960).

“I’m delighted this endowment recognizes and celebrates the innumerable contributions John Wilmerding has made to the field of American art,” said philanthropist Alice Walton. “John has been a trusted advisor and dear friend for many years, and it’s fitting that this directorship is in his name.”


Wilmerding’s connection to Shelburne goes back to his days as a student at Harvard, where he advised his grandmother on American art acquisitions, a role he would continue to play throughout his career. A beloved Princeton University professor who also taught at Dartmouth, Harvard and Yale universities, he later served as the Deputy Director of the National Gallery of Art in Washington, DC.

The Judith and James Pizzagalli American Paintings Endowment was created expressly for acquisition and exhibition of American paintings. On view in rotation in Webb Gallery of American Art, the museum’s collection includes a breadth of examples of American art from colonial portraits to 19th-century folk art, from Hudson River School landscapes and important seascapes to innovative works of American modernism.

“Shelburne’s American paintings collection is a true gem unlike any other in Vermont. We felt strongly about preserving this legacy and ensuring the continued strength of the collection. In addition, this fund will create a resource for both advancing scholarship and bringing works to the region that enrich the cultural experience that Shelburne offers,” said James Pizzagalli.  

About John Wilmerding

John Wilmerding is a preeminent scholar of American art whose many books and articles have helped define the nature of the field. Wilmerding is the Christopher Binyon Sarofim ’86 Professor in American Art Emeritus at Princeton University and previously taught at Harvard, Yale and Dartmouth universities. He is a former president of Shelburne Museum’s Board of Trustees and has been closely involved with the Museum for more than five decades. A student at Harvard at a time when American art was largely ignored by scholars and collectors, he began collecting with the acquisition of Fitz Hugh Lane’s Stage Rocks and Western Shore of Gloucester Outer Harbor (1857). Wilmerding was the longest serving member of the committee for the preservation of the White House, and is former Chair of the Board of Trustees for the National Gallery of Art. He is also a Trustee of the Guggenheim Museum and Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art.


Image Captions: John Wilmerding, Photo by John Blazejewski / Princeton University. Einars J. Mengis (1931-74), John Wilmerding with Spectacle-Optometrist’s Sign, July 10, 1968. Gelatin silver print, 8 x 10 inches. Collection of Shelburne Museum Archives. Shelburne Museum Welcome Garden. Courtesy of Shelburne Museum.


Link to hi-res images.


About Shelburne Museum

Founded in 1947 by trailblazing folk art collector Electra Havemeyer Webb (1888–1960), Shelburne Museum in Shelburne, Vermont, is the largest art and history museum in northern New England and Vermont’s foremost public resource for visual art and material culture. The Museum’s 45-acre campus is comprised of 39 buildings including the Pizzagalli Center for Art and Education and Webb Gallery featuring important American paintings by Andrew Wyeth, Winslow Homer, Grandma Moses, John Singleton Copley and many more.  For more information, please visit