Event Celebrates Generosity for UM Museum Building Project

Attendees at a donor-celebration event on May 24 include (left to right) Laurie Baefsky, College of the Arts and Media dean; Rafael Chacón, MMAC director; Clay Christian, Montana commissioner of higher education; Seth Bodnar, UM president; Terry Payne, donor and founder of PayneWest Insurance Inc.; Tim Payne; Dawn Payne; and Cindy Williams, UM Foundation president and CEO.

MISSOULA – When a group of impassioned University of Montana faculty and administrators began gathering a teaching collection of art objects and artifacts over 125 years ago, they embarked the institution on a remarkable journey. Their efforts led UM to become home to the Montana Museum of Art and Culture and the most comprehensive collection of art in the state.

On Tuesday, May 24, University officials and friends gathered to celebrate another group of visionary MMAC pioneers: the donors whose philanthropic giving is providing the means for UM to construct a new building for the museum’s permanent collection.

The much-anticipated privately funded project is made possible by the incredible generosity of many donors, including Patt and Terry Payne, who recently expanded their commitment for the project to a total of $12.5 million. The building will allow the museum to transfer thousands of important works of art from campus storage to public display and engagement through study and research.

“We are excited and enthusiastic about the new facility that will provide unparalleled exhibition, storage, preservation and educational space,” Terry Payne said at the event, which celebrated the launch of the building’s construction in March. “Many of these works have been hidden away for decades, and together we will bring them to light for all to view, treasure and enjoy.”

While lead donors enabled this new beginning for the physical building, further private financial support is needed to realize the full vision for the museum, Payne said. Additional private gifts will help the MMAC leverage the new space for research, education and programming to benefit all of its users – K-12 students, UM students, faculty members, artists, art lovers, the UM community, the broader Montana community and beyond.

“Our family invites additional donors to join us in bringing the new MMAC to its full potential,” he said.

Payne is a 1963 UM graduate who received an honorary doctorate from the University in 2014. Together with his wife, Patt, Terry also has invested in UM’s Payne Family Native American Center, which center’s Elouise Cobell Land and Culture Institute, and a number of student scholarships. Their most recent gift of $7.5 million established the Payne Family Impact Scholarship to help Montana students pay for college.

“This museum will be the embodiment of UM’s enduring commitment to the arts and the history of our region,” UM President Seth Bodnar said. “As we embark on its construction, we invite our giving community to seize this singular opportunity to join the Payne family and other generous donors in making the new facility the beacon for the arts in our state and the launchpad for a new generation of Montana artists.”

The new campus landmark will provide approximately 17,000 square feet on three levels for galleries, state-of-the-art storage and preservation space, and public event areas. The museum will also include space for research, education and programming. The LEED-Certified building, designed by A&E Architects, will be a model of sustainability, providing the museum’s collections with climate control and security.

“The aim of this facility is to build the first permanent home for this significant art collection in its history,” said H. Rafael Chacón, the Suzanne and Bruce Crocker director of MMAC. “Secondly, the building will provide spaces that allow us to fulfill our mission as a teaching and research institution and invite the public to enjoy these beautiful and compelling collections.”

The new MMAC building will be located in the upper northeast corner of Parking Lot P, across from the Student Rec Center and football practice fields. It is part of a larger renovation to the north end of campus that includes extending Memorial Row to the Clark Fork River and building a new indoor athletics facility on the River Bowl fields. Memorial Row, a walkway lined with stately Ponderosa trees, serves as a living tribute to those who died in service to the country and the 1917 influenza pandemic.

Swank Enterprises, a Missoula-based general contractor, leads construction of the new museum. The project is expected to be completed by fall 2023.

Please consider joining the donors who are helping to ensure the MMAC collection will soon be available to the public by emailing Cate Sundeen, director of development for the College of the Arts and Media, at cate.sundeen@supportum.org or calling 406-243-4990. Supporters also may direct gifts to the University of Montana Foundation online or P.O. Box 7159, Missoula, MT 59807-7159.

The UM Foundation is an independent nonprofit organization that has inspired philanthropic support to enhance excellence and opportunity at UM since 1950.


Video: A video shows an animated rendering of the exterior of the new Montana Museum of Art and Culture building now under construction.

Contact: Elizabeth Willy, director of communications, UM Foundation, 406-243-5320, elizabeth.willy@supportum.org.