This #GivingTuesday we reflect on the philanthropy of our founder, Rachel (“Bunny”) Lambert Mellon.
Mrs. Mellon was a significant art patron, peer, and philanthropist. Like her husband Paul Mellon, she donated much of her art in her lifetime and since her passing in 2014. Paul Mellon has credited his wife for inspiring his interest in French art, and together the Mellons gave a significant portion of their collections.
Mrs. Mellon became among the most generous donors to the National Gallery of Art (NGA) in Washington, D.C as her husband, who forwarded his father’s legacy of founding the NGA, funded and directed the buildout of the East Wing. Since 1964 the Mellons donated 1,168 works of art to the NGA.
Paul and Rachel Lambert Mellon also have two floors of permanent exhibit space in the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts (VMFA). Since her passing, a temporary exhibit at the VMFA celebrated Mrs. Mellon’s memory by showcasing the $9.5 million jewelry collection that she donated, comprised of 142 items by the French designer Jean Michel Schlumberger.
Mrs. Mellon was an artist herself, working in plants and landscapes the way other artists work in paint, fabric, and gems. This led to an environmental philanthropy that touched the places she loved, including near her home in the Virginia hunt country. The Mellons stewarded their own private land by placing thousands of acres in conservation easements through the Virginia Outdoors Foundation, which ensures the preservation of ecologically important open space into perpetuity. They also donated large tracts of land to the public. For example, Sky Meadows State Park was formed when the Mellons donated 1,132 acres of land. The nearby Northern Fauquier Community Park was formed from a $14 million grant from Paul Mellon. In Nantucket, Massachusetts, Mrs. Mellon’s beloved second home, she donated to conservation groups such as the Nantucket Conservation Foundation.
Mrs. Mellon was also a generous donor to the Brain Trauma Foundation, who benefitted from at least $1.4-million in honor of her daughter, Eliza Lloyd Moore, who sustained severe head trauma after being hit by a van.
Since Mrs. Mellon’s passing in 2014, over $411 million has been given to nonprofits, including the Oak Spring Garden Foundation. Today, Mrs. Mellon’s own home, walled garden, estate, and Library have been transformed into conference spaces for hosting and funding scholars while continuing to steward the land. The Gerard B. Lambert Foundation, which was established by Mrs. Mellon in honor of her father, continues making impactful grants.
If you’re looking to donate this #GivingTuesday or holiday season, here are a few nonprofits that we believe reflect Mrs. Mellon’s generous memory:
FoodCorps is raising Giving Tuesday funds to support eight schools as they connects kids to healthy food in school.
Environment Virginia is running an important campaign to save the bees.
Crop Trust supports plant conservation and diversity to ensure future generations can produce sufficient, nutritious food sustainably.
Virginia Outdoors Foundation is supported by both public and private funds in order to serve as Virginia’s leader in land conservation.