Realising the impact of a $4 million endowment

By Dr Campbell Gray

In 2014 Paula Kinnane made an $8 million gift to the University of Queensland. 50% of the donor’s contribution was made to create an endowment for the UQ Art Museum and an equal amount was given to create an endowment for the UQ School of Music. It is estimated that together these two endowments constitute the largest private gift to the arts in the history of Queensland.

But such generous donations do not happen overnight. They involve longstanding relationship building, plenty of legal paperwork and extensive planning if the impacts desired are to be realised.

It became clear that communicating the nuanced intentions established between a donor and an institutional representative is difficult to achieve in a Will’s written language.

The circumstances in which the Kinnane UQ Art Endowment Fund was received by the UQ Art Museum were as ideal as one could imagine.

The relationship with the donor, Paula Kinnane, and her intention to constitute the Endowment were well established before she passed away. Lengthy discussions over the Endowment’s specific terms had taken place during her lifetime ensuring that the donor’s desires and the Art Museum’s purposes were in harmony and would be satisfied in the language of the Will.

Four general purposes were established in Paula Kinnane’s Will for the Endowment: 1. paid student internships in the UQ Art Museum; 2. funds to enable students and museum professionals to build capacity in regional galleries; 3. undergraduate scholarships in art history; and 4. postgraduate research scholarships in art history or museum studies. While this language does not represent all the Will’s detail it became clear that communicating the nuanced intentions established between a donor and an institutional representative is difficult to achieve in a Will’s written language. As a consequence an Intentions document was crafted to protect the donor’s intentions and a Management Committee established to coordinate those University’s internal relationships required to execute the Will’s broad terms. Now that the general structures are conceived and most have been set in motion, the value of the Management Committee is being analysed.

While interpreting a Will’s written terms may be difficult for those who weren’t involved in its formation, at times demanding structures that complicate a process and hence slow it down, there is no question that the Kinnane UQ Art Endowment provides an enormous boost to the Art Museum’s capacity.

One of the UQ Art Museum’s primary purposes is to engage students in mentored pre-professional training. Currently, more than 30 students work in the Art Museum in paid employment, academic internships for credit, or in some voluntary situations. Meeting the Kinnane UQ Art Endowment’s first commitment for paid student internships has occurred easily.

Conceiving ways to engage regional galleries in capacity-building processes and projects has begun from scratch. In 2016, the UQ Art Museum director and senior education manager visited a number of Queensland regional galleries in order to gather ideas from their leaders. Last year two UQ students and a staff member from Artspace Mackay were trained at UQ then travelled to Mackay to catalogue and prepare for storage, a large private collection of objects that were in the process of being donated to Artspace Mackay. This year, trained UQ students will be at the Rockhampton City Art Gallery packing their ceramic collection and moving it to new storage premises. Professional training programs for regional staff and regional networking sessions are also being explored. It will take some time to understand and effectively systematise capacity-building methods.

The pathway to create an undergraduate scholarship is well worn, however two additional conditions are to be applied in the Kinnane scholarship: preference will be given to applicants from rural or remote areas of Queensland; and the successful applicant will be engaged in an internship at the UQ Art Museum. As a consequence of these additional requirements, conceiving and systematising the scholarship processes has demanded that a few academic and administrative entities work together. It has taken some time to produce an effective solution that will ensure a candidate’s focus is integrated between their formal academic studies and their engagement in the Art Museum.

The postgraduate research scholarship, also intended to attract rural and remote applicants, has been equally complicated to conceive and structure. Various models were explored and in the end one in which the scholarship “tops-up” an existing scholarship, facilitating travel, more extensive research opportunities and potentially curatorial support was determined.

While interpreting a Will’s written terms may be difficult for those who weren’t involved in its formation, at times demanding structures that complicate a process and hence slow it down, there is no question that the Kinnane UQ Art Endowment provides an enormous boost to the Art Museum’s capacity to realize its educational mission. Paula’s gift has set a model to which others are aspiring. Indeed, since the Kinnane endowment has been created a number of other couples and individuals have named the UQ Art Museum in their Wills – a condition that will contribute substantially to future-proofing the Art Museum – and general philanthropic energy and outcomes have increased noticeably. More importantly, the value of this activity is in the wonderful relationships that develop with loyal people who advocate our cause to significant gatekeepers both inside the University and out.


Dr Campbell Gray is Director of the University of Queensland Art Museum and adjunct professor in the UQ’s School of Communication and Arts. Prior to joining UQ in 2011, he was Director of Brigham Young University Museum of Art, Utah, USA from 1996. Cam is passionate about the contribution of art to education. His work at the UQ Art Museum is focused on positioning art and the art museum as relevant and valuable to every university discipline and to each individual.