The Indiana University Eskenazi Museum of Art has announced a transformative estate gift of $5 million from Bloomington residents and entrepreneurs Kimberly and John Simpson in support of the new Center for Education. Their generous donation will support the museum’s core mission of engaging students with original works of art.
In honor of the gift, the center will be named the Kimberly and John Simpson Center for Education. The center is one of several new spaces for learning and engagement that have been established as part of a major $30 million renovation of the Eskenazi Museum, which began in 2017. A Grand Reopening celebration is scheduled for next month.
“The new Simpson Center for Education will play an essential role in providing IU students, other members of the IU community and the general public with unprecedented opportunities to interact with the Eskenazi Museum’s acclaimed art collections and other priceless artifacts,” said IU President Michael A. McRobbie. “We are deeply grateful for Kim’s and John’s extraordinary generosity in supporting this important new center and furthering the educational and engagement missions of one of the world’s premier university art museums.”
The Center for Education will facilitate learning through five branches in the museum’s education department: university, youth, public, tour and docent, and arts-based wellness experiences. Equipped with leading technology, such as high-resolution zoom cameras and projection screens, the new Commons and Art-making Studio provide spaces for lectures, performances, distance learning, hands-on activities, symposia, and community gatherings. The center also houses a research unit that produces outstanding scholarship in the practice and theory of teaching museums.
“With this incredible support from the Simpsons, the Center for Education will be a major new hub that brings art to life for students of all levels. This gift, alongside Kim's leadership as a docent, helps elevate the role of the Eskenazi Museum of Art as a teaching museum that offers unique learning opportunities, produces outstanding research, and strengthens interdisciplinary collaborations across campus. We are thrilled for the new horizons made possible by this gift,” said Heidi Davis-Soylu, Lucienne M. Glaubinger Director of Education at the Eskenazi Museum of Art.
Kim and John Simpson are long-time Bloomington residents and entrepreneurs who renovate homes near campus and rent them to IU students. A lifetime love of art drew Kim to the museum, where she has served as a vital member of the volunteer docent corps for more than 16 years. Docents at the Eskenazi Museum of Art play a pivotal role in engaging students and the public with works in the collection through tours and classroom visits. Kim is also a member of the museum’s National Advisory Board and of the IU Foundation’s Women’s Philanthropy Council. Kim and John met at IU, where Kim majored in studio art and art history, and John majored in journalism. Their longstanding commitment of time and resources in support of the museum’s educational mission is transformative.
“We are very grateful to Kim and John for this extraordinary gift in support of our Center for Education,” said David Brenneman, Wilma E. Kelley Director at the Eskenazi Museum of Art. “Teaching through direct engagement with original works of art is core to our mission. The Simpsons’ commitment to furthering our goal of being a preeminent teaching museum will allow us to expand our reach, connecting people with our world-class collection of art like never before.”
This gift counts toward the $3 billion campaign, For All: The Indiana University Bicentennial Campaign.