Art Institute of Chicago receives $500,000 pledge for exchange program with India

India’s government is pledging $500,000, plus more in travel expenses, to the Art Institute of Chicago as part of a new professional exchange program between India and the museum.

India’s Ministry of Finance announced Thursday the establishment of the Vivekananda Memorial Program for Museum Excellence, which honors Swami Vivekananda, who gave a landmark speech about religious freedom at the first World’s Parliament on Religion, held Sept. 11, 1893, in the building that became the Art Institute.

“It’s a big commitment, and we’re very pleased and proud to be the first American museum to receive a grant from the government of India,” Art Institute Director Douglas Druick said Thursday. “It’s very exciting, and it opens new possibilities for our engagement with India and Indian culture.”

Art Institute spokeswoman Erin Hogan said in addition to $500,000 in grant money, the Indian government will cover significant travel and lodging expenses over four years as Art Institute staffers present lectures, workshops and seminars in India, and Indian fellows visit the Art Institute.

“The program involves teams of people traveling repeatedly to India and the United States,” said Hogan, noting that the museum will create four to six fellowships each year for Indian museum leaders and will serve as a resource center on best international practices in such areas as conservation; collection storage, display and expansion; visitor facilities and services; and multimedia content production and staff training.

The Art Institute will host Indian cultural and political leaders, including Minister of Culture Shri Pranab Mukherjee, at a ceremony Saturday evening in which the new program will be announced, the site of the Swami’s speech will be rededicated with a prominent plaque and a new exhibition on loan from the Indian government, “The Last Harvest: The Paintings of Rabindranath Tagore,” will be celebrated.

The Indian government also announced a $1.5 million endowment at the University of Chicago to create the Indian Ministry of Culture Vivekananda Chair to promote “fields of study most relevant to (the Swami’s) teachings.” The university will host a ceremony Saturday afternoon.,0,6854781.story

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