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March 15, 2024 — In a transformative gift, philanthropist Richard Hedreen has donated a $300 million art collection to Seattle University, along with $25 million in seed money to fund an art museum. It is the largest gift of art ever made to a U.S. university.

Richard Hedreen (credit: Yosef Kalinko)

Richard and Betty Hedreen’s interest in art started modestly with a desire to find a few pieces to outfit a new home they were decorating. That was 60 years ago. In the time since, they assembled an extraordinary collection of art—spanning the 15th and 16th centuries to modern and contemporary works—that is regarded as among the most finely curated private collections in the U.S., comprised of more than 200 works.

Betty and Richard “Dick” Hedreen

Dick Hedreen’s late wife Elizabeth “Betty” Ann Petri Hedreen is an alumna of Seattle University and, with her husband, was a longtime supporter of many of the university’s most vital artworks that are part of its existing permanent collection.

“Since their earliest days, the Jesuits have recognized the visual arts as a powerful tool of communication and teaching, and the arts are an essential part of the holistic Jesuit model of higher education,” says SU President Eduardo Peñalver. “Seattle University is honored to receive this truly transformational gift from the Hedreens, who have built one of the finest private art collections in the nation.”

Amy Sherald, “The Make-Believer (Monet’s Garden)” (courtesy of Seattle University)

The collection features works by some of history’s greatest artists including Jacopo da Pontormo, Jan Lievens, Élisabeth Vigée Le Brun, Luis Egidio Meléndez, Thomas Gainsborough and Roy Lichtenstein. There are etchings by Lucien Freud and photography by artists including Henri Cartier-Bresson, Irving Penn and Andy Warhol.

Donating their art collection to Seattle University, says Dick, is a way to honor Betty, who passed away in 2022. The couple lovingly built this collection together, with Betty often turning him onto unique pieces that he otherwise wouldn’t know about.

“Betty and I always felt that we were custodians of the artworks we acquired, holding them in trust for a larger purpose. The Jesuits place a special focus on the arts and humanities, including art history, and that has long been reflected in Seattle University’s Jesuit education and its connections to the Seattle arts community,” he says. “My goal is to keep the collection together in the new Seattle University Museum of Art, which will have a profound and lasting impact on students and faculty.”

Central to this gift to Seattle University is a commitment to create a teaching museum that will showcase centuries of art history and be a true learning extension of the classroom.

“This new museum will serve as a bridge between our campus and the city, expanding access to the arts for traditionally underserved communities and helping us realize our mission of educating the whole person and empowering leaders for a just and humane world,” said Peñalver.

Over the past 25 years, the Hedreens have played a role in the transformation of the SU campus, ensuring that art became part of the infrastructure. They were among the lead donors for the university’s award-winning Chapel of St. Ignatius—itself highly regarded as an architectural work of art.

Giovanni Toscani (1371-1430), “Adoration of the Magi” (courtesy of Seattle University)

“My impression has always been that the Jesuits are great educators and that as such they provide a finer education because of their interest in literature, poetry, music and art. So that was attractive to me,” says Hedreen. “Betty went to Seattle University, and I wouldn’t have met her had she not attended school there. I always felt like I wanted to support Seattle University.”

Click here to view a photo gallery featuring some of the works in the collection.

Source: Seattle University

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