Maria Manetti Shrem Pledges $20 Million for UC Davis Arts

by | May 21, 2024 | Culture, On Campus, Summer 2024

Maria Manetti Shrem continues her commitment to the arts and education internationally with a pledge of more than $20 million, furthering her longstanding philanthropic partnership with UC Davis.

The “Maria Manetti Shrem Arts Renaissance” funds eight endowments for arts and design, including three new faculty chairs within the College of Letters and Science. Manetti Shrem’s gift is the largest to the college and the largest to the arts in UC Davis history.

The Maria Manetti Shrem Arts District, spanning Hutchison Drive from the historic TB 9 art building to Shields Library, will bear her name in recognition of her support of multiple disciplines and her vision to bolster collaboration among them with a holistic approach to the arts.

“At this stage of my life, the art of living coincides with the art of giving. This gift to UC Davis brings me great joy, as education and the arts have profoundly impacted my life,” said Manetti Shrem, an international arts patron and recipient of the 2023 UC Davis Medal, the university’s highest honor.

“I believe the arts should be accessible to all. We need the humanities — they nurture the soul and embody our shared dreams,” she added. “They are pivotal to shaping a better world.”

Screenshot from Punnett Farms

Maria Manetti Shrem (Courtesy of J. Henry Fair)

The UC Davis Jan Shrem and Maria Manetti Shrem Museum of Art is named for Manetti Shrem and her husband, Jan Shrem. The couple gave $10 million in 2011 to establish the museum, which opened its doors in 2016. Manetti Shrem’s latest pledge builds upon her continued giving over the past decade and consists of a $20 million estate gift plus an additional $800,000 annually to immediately fund the endowments, providing support in perpetuity.

This brings her total giving to UC Davis to over $43 million, with Manetti Shrem’s philanthropy directly benefiting the university’s more than 38,000 undergraduate and graduate students. With about 25,000 student visits to the museum and 10,000 enrollments in art, art history or design classes every year, these numbers are now poised to increase even more.

“It’s crucial that as many students as possible are exposed to the arts as their primary inspiration to live life to the fullest and achieve their dreams,” Manetti Shrem said. “Dreams are essential; they fuel our existence.”

Providing for the next generation of artists

Manetti Shrem’s pledge funds various arts areas within the College of Letters and Science to catalyze a “renaissance zeitgeist evolution open to cutting-edge technology.”

This includes faculty positions, to recruit and retain the finest minds in art and design to teach UC Davis students, plus fellowships for graduate students in art studio to attract and inspire the next generation of art scholars and professionals.

“When Maria says ‘renaissance,’ she really means it,” said Chancellor Gary S. May. “Her comprehensive support across arts and design will help UC Davis offer even more excellent programs to our students and our community. We are deeply grateful for her generosity and her partnership as we bring this shared vision to life.”

In addition to the arts district, UC Davis will name existing programs and spaces in her honor, including the Maria Manetti Shrem Art Hall and Maria Manetti Shrem Art Studio Program.

“UC Davis has long been a quiet powerhouse of creativity and home to some of the world’s most influential artists,” said Estella Atekwana, dean of the College of Letters and Science. “With this incredible gift, Maria, our greatest champion, helps us build upon our storied history while securing our future as a leader in the creative arts. We are truly grateful for her confidence in our faculty, students and programs and look forward to our continuing partnership.”

The California Studio: Manetti Shrem Artist Residencies will continue with funding through the gift, enabling the university to attract visiting world-class artists to instruct and mentor undergraduate and graduate students. It also provides for visiting lectures hosted in collaboration among the arts programs and Manetti Shrem Museum.

In addition to supporting fine arts, Manetti Shrem is bringing her expertise in the design industry to UC Davis via The Maria Manetti Shrem Institute for Sustainable Design, Fashion and Textile, which will be home to one of the new faculty chairs. The partnership will further bolster the Department of Design’s excellence and emphasis on this work, incorporating advanced technologies and helping establish UC Davis as a global leader in sustainable design.

“My mission is to enrich the student experience, support talented individuals, attract top faculty members and students, and help elevate the arts and their technological evolution such as generative AI at UC Davis to national and international prominence,” Manetti Shrem said.



Philanthropist Maria Manetti Shrem Pledges More Than $20 Million to Fund Arts Programs at UC Davis