Historic $10 Million Gift Supports Wharton Esherick’s Legacy

The Wharton Esherick Museum (WEM) is delighted to announce the receipt of a $10 million endowment gift from the Windgate Foundation. Returns from the investment of the gift are projected to provide income that will support the Museum’s annual operating budget at a time when cultural organizations of every size are grappling with the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The unexpected gift demonstrates the impact that one philanthropic act can have on preserving a singular example of American cultural heritage. A longtime supporter of the Museum and a champion of American craft, the Windgate Foundation purposely bestowed this gift during a challenging time. “Windgate’s partnership with the Wharton Esherick Museum began in 1996 and over the years we have been increasingly impressed with the varied programs, tours and educational opportunities they have offered,” comments Pat Forgy, Executive Director of the Foundation. “The endowment gift is a culmination of our many years of working together and shows our trust in the staff and board and their future vision. It is our hope that this gift will inspire others to show their support for this exceptional Museum as they prepare to expand over the coming years.”

stone walkway leads to a building with a stone section on the left, a tall wooden section in the center and a curving stucco wall to the right.
Wharton Esherick’s Studio. Photo courtesy of the Wharton Esherick Museum.
black and white photo of Wharton Esherick seated with his left hand behind his head and his right hand out in front of him, gesturing in conversation
Wharton Esherick circa 1960. Photo courtesy of the Wharton Esherick Museum.
room full of handmade wooden furniture and sculpture, with handmade woden spiral staircase towards the far end of the room.
Wharton Esherick’s Studio. Photo by Charles Uniatowski, courtesy of the Wharton Esherick Museum.
room with handmade wooden table and chairs in the center of the room, bed to the right and a curving sofa to the left.
Esherick’s Studio bedroom. Photo courtesy of the Wharton Esherick Museum.
drawing of path through woods leading up to the studio
Sketch of the proposed “Ramble” path connecting the upper and lower campus. Image courtesy of the Wharton Esherick Museum.
room with wood floor, walls, and ceiling, and wooden table and chairs. A large window at the far side of the room is reflected in a large mirror on the right wall.
Esherick Studio dining room. Photo courtesy of the Wharton Esherick Museum.
wooden platter and spoons hang on a wall over a wooden chest. Chairs hang from the ceiling.
Esherick’s work on display in the 1956 Workshop. Photo by Eoin O’Neill, courtesy of the Wharton Esherick Museum.
panoramic photo of long low building with zig-zagging roof line and lots of windows.
Esherick’s 1956 Workshop co-designed with Louis Kahn. Photo by Anne Todd, courtesy of the Wharton Esherick Museum.

Campus Timeline

1913 – Wharton and Letty Esherick purchase an 1839 farmhouse on a five-acre farm they name ‘Sunekrest.’

1926 – Work begins on the Studio.

1928 – Esherick builds his Expressionist-style garage.

1940 – Esherick moves into the Studio full-time, constructing a two-story wood frame addition.

1956 – The Workshop, co-designed by Wharton Esherick and Louis Kahn is built.

1966 – Esherick adds his final addition to his Studio, a curving concrete and stucco “silo.”

1970 – Wharton Esherick passes away at the age of 82. Mansfield “Bob” Bascom and Ruth Bascom convert the 1956 Workshop into their home.

1972 – The Wharton Esherick Museum is founded.

1973 – The Studio is added to the National Register of Historic Places.

1993 – The Museum is recognized as a National Historic Landmark for Architecture.

2003 – Sunekrest property is sold.

2014 – Sunekrest property is reacquired by the Museum.

2015 – Ruth Esherick Bascom passes away.

2020 – Mansfield “Bob” Bascom passes away on October 26.

“To say we are excited, and humbled, is just the beginning. Being able to share news of this transformative gift with our founder, Wharton Esherick’s son-in-law Bob Bascom, just weeks before his death, was one of the most profound moments of my life. This gift not only stabilizes the Museum at a difficult moment, but also secures Bob’s vision to preserve Esherick’s Studio for future generations while expanding our site to make it not just the story of a place in the history of American craft, but a more complete picture of an artful life, well-lived.”

Julie Siglin, Executive Director of the Wharton Esherick Museum

“We have known for some time that we wanted to deepen the visitor experience here, but we never imagined we’d be able to embark on that vision any time soon, especially with the constraints of the pandemic affecting cultural institutions so profoundly. This gift is almost inconceivable for a museum of our size, and allows us, unexpectedly, to dream bigger.”

Nicole Riegl, WEM Board of Trustees President

Recent Coverage

Wharton Esherick Museum in Malvern gets a $10 million gift out of the blue | Philadelphia Inquirer

Tiny, hidden Wharton Esherick Museum gets $10M windfall | WHYY

Wharton Esherick Museum Receives a Surprise Gift of $10 Million | Artfix Daily

Wharton Esherick Museum in Malvern Unexpectedly Receives Hefty Gift | Vista Today

Wharton Esherick Museum Lands a $10 Million Donation | Main Line Today

Press Contacts

Luise Moskowitz
SteegeThomson Communications Senior Associate

Julie Siglin
WEM Executive Director

Emily Zilber
WEM Director of Curatorial Affairs and Strategic Partnerships

Nicole Riegl
WEM Board of Trustees President

Rob Leonard
Former WEM Executive Director

Katie Wynne
WEM Communications & Special Programs Manager