Most weekday mornings, you can find children at the Art Museum of West Virginia University. They are from elementary, middle and high schools near and far. For many, these trips to the museum are their first time experiencing professional art.
These life-changing experiences are made possible by donors like Mavis Grant and George Lilley, Jr. The couple in 2015 established the Grant and Lilley Educational Fund to support the educational outreach mission of the museum. They recently established an additional endowment fund so that their support will continue into the future.
Active members of the Morgantown community, the couple has a deep-seated appreciation of the arts.
“For George, art appreciation class in high school stimulated his love of art,” Grant said. “As a part of this class, he was required to attend art museums in Philadelphia and acquired an appreciation and interest in what he was learning. For me, the interest in visual arts was much later – even as an adult. I did not have the opportunity to study art growing up in rural Illinois and certainly was not exposed to much at all. I think now that was a deficit in my growing up experiences.”
Grant and Lilley first became involved with the museum during its planning stages and Lilley now serves on the first Museum Advisory Council.
“We first learned about the development of the museum when Joy Ice moved to Morgantown to become the director,” Grant said. “We met her through our mutual church membership and were very interested in what was being developed from the very beginning. I am an alumna of WVU, and George was an adjunct faculty member, so we both have long-standing connections to WVU.”
After meeting Ice, they joined the Friends of the Art Museum, a group for people who enjoy the arts and social, educational and cultural activities revolving around art.
“When we learned of the formation of the Friends of the WVU Art Museum group, we were immediately drawn to this opportunity to both support the museum and to advance our own knowledge and appreciation of the arts,” they said. “We became charter members of the Friends group and have enjoyed the many opportunities and activities associated with it.”
When Grant and Lilley decided to make a gift, they spoke with Ice about ideas. Art education for children was high on the museum’s priority list, and the couple agreed.
“Early experiences for children can be very formative,” Grant said. “Being exposed to art at an early age provides the opportunity for children to learn about different types of art, to develop an appreciation for art, to express themselves through this medium and to determine if art is something for which they have an interest, aptitude or skill. It also contributes to a person becoming more well-rounded.”
With its collection of more than 3,000 works of art and rotating exhibitions, a visit to the museum provides children, and their teachers, a variety of art that can be used to explore a wide-range of subjects.
“It is our hope that visitors of all ages will be enriched through their experiences in programs funded in part or wholly by the Grant and Lilley Education Fund at the Art Museum of WVU.”