From Window Magazine: 'Artistic Gifts'
Virginia Wright (right) poses with Mark di Suvero as he assembles “For Handel” in 1974. Wright bought the soaring I-beam sculpture for Western after losing out on a different di Suvero work that would eventually resurface at Dartmouth College. | Photo by Jack Carver (’40); courtesy Whatcom Museum
How much art can you buy with a million bucks?
That was the question Virginia Wright faced in 1969, when her father, Northwest timber baron Prentice Bloedel, gave her a million dollar endowment and a mandate to buy public artworks for the region.
Mr. Bloedel’s gift came as a surprise: He didn’t really like contemporary art. But he knew what made his daughter tick – and that she had the passion, the knowledge and the connections to make his investment a pretty safe bet.
He was right. Since that time, the Virginia Wright Fund has reshaped the landscape of Northwest art and provided the driving force behind Western Washington University’s nationally acclaimed Outdoor Sculpture Collection. Of the collection’s 25 artworks, the Virginia Wright Fund purchased five and partially paid for two others. Six more works were donated from the Wrights’ private collection. Mr. Bloedel would surely be pleased.
If you have a lot of money, giving it away is easy enough. But if you want your money to make a difference, it takes vision, research, hard work and the guts to go out on a limb. Those are qualities that set that Virginia Wright and her late husband, Bagley, apart from the crowd and made them a power couple whose impact on this region’s cultural life began well before Prentice Bloedel endowed the Virginia Wright Fund. Their work has since extended far beyond it.