George Lilley, a longtime supporter of West Virginia University, has donated $50,000 to the Art Museum of WVU to support a new major acquisitions fund.
Lilley has lived and worked in West Virginia for more than 50 years. Together with his wife, Mavis Grant, the couple has a passion for helping their community with an emphasis on creating opportunities for art education.
Lilley’s most recent gift is the lead gift of a campaign aimed at raising $1.5 million to support major acquisitions for the museum’s permanent collection.
With more than 4,000 paintings, prints, drawings, photography, sculpture, and ceramics, the Art Museum’s permanent collection is regularly displayed in rotating exhibitions across two galleries, and is frequently used by students and faculty in disciplines ranging from studio art to public history and political science.
“The Art Museum is always looking to add objects to the collection that best represent the full scope of art history and that best serve the entire campus,” director Todd J. Tubutis said. “The more inclusive and representative the scope, the greater benefit we can be to everyone across the state.”
Objects in the collection are primarily from the 20th and 21st centuries and include works from artists around the globe as well as those with ties to West Virginia, like James Edward Davis and Blanche Lazzell. The extensive holdings of works of Blanche Lazzell will be the focus of the museum’s first traveling exhibition beginning in 2024, providing significant exposure for a native of Maidsville, West Virginia and graduate of WVU who became a pioneering figure in American art in the early 20th century.
“We always want to be a resource for the community,” Todd said. “If you’re looking for a new prospective or to better understand a subject, studying art can be tremendously impactful. George’s gift is invaluable in helping us make that happen.”
Lilley has been involved with the Art Museum of WVU for more than 10 years, even during the period when the museum was being built to house WVU’s art collection. He currently serves as the chair for the Museum’s Advisory Council.
Originally from Eastern Pennsylvania, Lilley received degrees in higher education at The Ohio State University and Indiana University before making West Virginia home. He served in administrative roles at Concord College before finding his calling as an administrator for mental health services.
Lilley held positions across the state, from Princeton, Petersburg to Charleston, where he worked for the state’s behavioral health administration in the Department of Health and Human Resources. Eventually, Lilley moved to north-central West Virginia for a position at Valley HealthCare System.
Lilley’s career in education and health services, partnered with his love of art, drove him to be a part of bringing the major acquisitions fund to life.
“Having been so involved in the Art Museum for the last decade, I’ve seen first-hand the impact the collection has on all sorts of people,” Lilley said. “Anything we can do to grow the museum’s reach is something I want to be a part of.”
The acquisition fund will ultimately be used to acquire significant pieces of art that will add to the permanent collection’s scope and usability. Special consideration will be given to art that is regionally or historically significant.
“When we can bring something to our community that they wouldn’t have had access to otherwise, it’s a no-brainer for me,” Lilley said. “We want our museum to be able to compete with major museums and private collectors so that the museum can better serve our community.”
This isn’t the first gift Lilley has made to the Art Museum of WVU. In 2015, Lilley and his wife established the Grant and Lilley Educational Fund to support the educational outreach mission of the museum. They established an additional endowment fund so that their support will continue into the future. The couple also supported the Art Museum’s building campaign as well as participate in the Friends of the Art Museum program.
“I have always been passionate about improving quality of life for the people in my community,” Lilley said. “Every bit of my support has come from my hope to reach that goal.”