February 3, 2024
The Yellowstone Art Museum (YAM) has announced that the museum has received its single largest gift, from a private donor, in its sixty-year history. Deborah Anspach and John Hanson, longtime Billings residents, have gifted $1 million to the YAM’s Endowment Fund. Additionally, the Mary Alice Fortin Family Foundation, Inc. recently committed $400,000 to the ongoing care of the YAM’s historic building and in support of Education Outreach at the museum.
The generous gift from Deborah Anspach and John Hanson will financially support the position of the executive director and, in honor of the gift, the executive director’s position will now be named “The Deborah Anspach and John Hanson Executive Director of the Yellowstone Art Museum.” Jessica Kay Ruhle, the YAM Executive Director, said, “Deborah and John have been steadfast supporters of the arts for many years. They have donated countless hours of leadership and service to the museum and other civic organizations in town. They embody a spirit of warmth, good cheer, and generosity. We are honored and deeply grateful for their continued support of the museum, and their commitment to making Billings a vibrant place to live and work.”
“What the Yellowstone Art Museum does so well is to act as a collective memory for Billings and the surrounding region to help us better understand ourselves and preserve our various cultures. Art shapes and changes lives, in positive ways. Time and time again, we hearDeborah Anspach
stories from so many people, about how art and art making saved their lives. Art matters.”
Deborah Anspach is a retired attorney and YAM Trustee. John Hanson, a retired physician, shared, “It’s more fun to do this when you’re alive to see the gift in action.” Philanthropy and community involvement are driving factors in this couple’s philosophy.
“We hope our gift inspires others to give. Give what you are able. It all makes a difference.”John Hanson
“It truly is an astounding gift,” said Precious McKenzie, Director of Advancement. “When they told us of their intentions, our executive team was, at first, speechless, awestruck. Then we were just absolutely moved to tears by their generosity. Words cannot express how grateful we are for this amazing gift. Deborah and John are inspiring. This gift makes a tremendous impact for the future of the museum.”
The Mary Alice Fortin Foundation, Inc. has a long and meaningful history of philanthropy in Billings and throughout the country. This significant contribution to the YAM is designated for the restoration of the building and to increase access to Education Outreach programs. Specifically, the support to education will help fund scholarships to the YAM’s summer camp programs and will provide resources to expand art education opportunities specifically for Indigenous community members.
These two are testaments to the growth the museum has recently experienced. In 2023, the museum was awarded a $240,000 grant from Art Bridges to break down barriers to access by making museum admission free for the next three years.
The Yellowstone Art Museum celebrates its 60th anniversary this year and will honor the museum’s history and future at programs throughout 2024.