New museum at Pomona College gets large donation, formally named

Pomona College announced that Janet Inskeep Benton, a 1979 graduate of the college and long-time supporter of the arts, has donated $15 million for the college’s new museum.

Scheduled to open in fall 2020, the recently-named Benton Museum of Art at Pomona College or “The Benton,” is a 33,000-square-foot facility currently under construction on College Avenue and Bonita Avenue.

The museum’s collection will include pieces from Pomona alumni, including Helen Pashgian, James Turrell, Peter Shelton, the late Marcia Hafif and the late Chris Burden.

“The Benton will be a rewarding visit for all who seek to venture beyond the expected and to explore the diversity of California,” said Pomona College President G. Gabrielle Starr in a press release. “This new museum will benefit our students, our community and the SoCal art scene in which our campus has long played an important role.”

Designed by Machado Silvetti Associates and Gensler, the new structure with cast-in-place concrete walls is accented with wood, glass and a distinctive sloping roofline, the college related. Built to LEED gold standards of sustainability, the U-shaped museum will define a central courtyard, with a pavilion for events.

Construction of the $44 million facility, located on the west side of College Avenue, is set to be completed by fall 2019, launching the yearlong process of moving the museum’s collection to the new facility and installing opening exhibitions.

The building replaces the existing Pomona College Museum of Art. Housed in a 1950s-era facility, PCMA continues to operate across the street from the ongoing construction. Exhibitions there will continue through May 2020, with the new museum set to open later that year.

The Benton will continue the current museum’s Project Series, focused on contemporary Southern California artists, which has included exhibitions from Andrea Bowers, Mark Bradford, Charles Gaines, Ken Gonzales-Day, Amanda Ross-Ho and many others. The museum was also part of the Getty Foundation’s Pacific Standard Time projects in collaboration with institutions across Los Angeles.

Built on three levels, the entire building is conceived and designed as a teaching museum, fostering instruction within collection areas and exhibition spaces, and “creating opportunities for active encounters with original works of art.” The Benton will also provide for the college’s growing permanent collection of more than 14,000 objects.

A longtime supporter of the museum’s programming, Ms. Benton is a member of the Pomona College board of trustees. A history major at Pomona, Ms. Benton went on to earn an MBA at Harvard Business School. After working in product management at General Foods Corporation in the mid-1980s, she left the workforce to raise her family and serve on various nonprofit boards in her Westchester County, New York community.

She is currently board chair of the Jacob Burns Film Center, a nonprofit art house theater complex and media arts education center. In 2000, Ms. Benton founded the Frog Rock Foundation, a philanthropy focused on improving outcomes for underserved children.

“Art is a powerful force, opening up the mind to so many possibilities—new ideas, varied perspectives, interesting questions, emotional responses, reconsidered thinking,” Ms. Benton said. “My hope is that the new museum creates a stimulating environment for students to explore and engage with art in a deeply meaningful way.”


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