Elizabeth Glassman, Terra Foundation for American Art

TITLE: President and CEO

FUNDING AREAS: Arts education, visual arts, and museums

CONTACT: glassman@terraamericanart.org, 312-664-3939

IP TAKE: Glassman's job is to get other countries to appreciate American art created between the 18th century and World War II. Although most of her focus is overseas, grants are still made to local Chicago organizations operating in this narrow focus area.

PROFILE: Elizabeth Glassman is the president and CEO of the Terra Foundation for American Art, which has gone through a great deal of transition over the years. In an interview with the New York Times, Glassman referred to the Terra Foundation as a "museum without walls."

The founder, Daniel J. Terra, opened three museums to hold his collection of more than 700 works of 18th- to 20th-century American art. Although Terra made his fortune selling chemicals and inks, he believed in the power of art of Americans during this time period. That said, the first museum in suburban Evanston and the second in downtown Chicago have closed down, and the French museum has shifted its focus to Impressionism without the foundation's involvement. Terra has been criticized for its museum mismanagement, and today it focuses on the worldwide study and preservation of U.S. art. The Terra Foundation has evolved to become a model for aspiring collectors and museums needing a boost.

Glassman was appointed director of the museums and foundation in the early 2000s, and today she leads a moderate-size staff as president and CEO. Before securing these titles, Glassman codirected a documentation and research initiative on issues facing contemporary artists at New York City's Dia Center for the Arts. She also established and served as president of the Georgia O'Keeffe Foundation. However, she wasn't always eying a career in the arts. She first majored in international relations at Sweet Briar College, but switched to art history after spending a year abroad in Paris.

Overall, Glassman is tasked with the job of making other countries appreciate American art. Terra has provided tens of millions of dollars for hundreds of projects in dozens of countries around the world. Glassman started in Western Europe and then branched out to Russia, Australia, and Mexico. She's put a lot of effort into including Asia and South America in the past couple of years. "We are reaching out to institutions in those areas with projects, with ideas, and we are building our list of people doing research or dissertations on American art," Glassman explained.

Glassman has been fighting an uphill battle to get the world to respect American art from before World War II. After the war, abstract expressionist and pop art in America made a worldwide impact. Still, Glassman is convinced that the rest of the world wants to know more.

More recently, Glassman won the French Medal of Honor and was named the Officier dans I'Ordre des Arts et des Lettres, which is a government recognition for people who have contributed to furthering the arts in France. "We look at art as an opportunity to create a dialogue," Glassman said. "We use that as a jumping off point to reach audiences about the nature of their own national culture."

Although much of Glassman's focus is at the international level, she does bring her efforts back home as well. One of the Terra Foundation's key program areas is American Art in Chicago, and the local goal is to "increase the awareness, enjoyment, and appreciation of historical American art for general audiences, K–12 teachers, and the academic community." Everything from exhibitions to academic programs and K-12 education programs are considered for funding each year. Check out the foundation's website to learn more about the guidelines and deadlines for the Chicago Public Program and the K-12 Education Program. "The foundation operates on the core belief that art has the power to both distinguish cultures and unite them," Glassman has said.