Nancy Doll’s $500K planned gift furthers her Weatherspoon legacy

Nancy Doll retired as the Weatherspoon Art Museum’s director in 2020. Her impact on the museum will continue to grow via a $500,000 planned gift that will support many future Weatherspoon exhibitions.

Some endowments help preserve the collection or help add to it, Doll explained. “But exhibitions, that’s the other heart of what the Weatherspoon does. That’s what brings people in and brings them back. Obviously, exhibitions cost money.”

That’s how her gift will make a big difference.

She is particularly eager to support exhibitions that break new ground and raise important issues, she said.

“Now more than ever, I think, museums need to be responsive and responsible to a range of audiences,” she said. “At the same time, it always starts with the art in the exhibition.”

Doll served as director from 1998 to 2020. Her farewell event in June 2020 – during the height of the pandemic – turned into a virtual one, followed by a celebratory car parade of well-wishers.

At Nancy Doll’s retirement celebration drive-by parade, 2020.

The following year, as pandemic protocols evolved, she was honored with the state’s Order of the Long Leaf Pine Award at a special event at the Chancellor’s Residence. 

Her tenure at UNCG made a tremendous impact. Under her leadership, the Weatherspoon became known nationally as a model for community-engaged art and for the active promotion of female artists and artists of color. In the three years since Doll’s retirement, the museum has sustained and increased that momentum.  

Juliette Bianco, who joined the Weatherspoon in September 2020 as the Anne and Ben Cone Memorial Endowed Director, said, “Legendary director Nancy Doll led from both her mind and her heart. Her impact on the Weatherspoon and the museum field, and now her generous support of Weatherspoon exhibitions – and the innovation, research, and learning that go with them – are inspiring. We are fortunate to have in Nancy a true champion of the arts at UNCG, and I am grateful for her friendship.”

Asked what she was most proud of during her years as director, Doll spoke of the people she had helped lead during her years as director. And two other things stood out: “The Weatherspoon’s 75th anniversary celebration – and a close second is the book that we produced when we were celebrating our 70th.” That book, “Weatherspoon Art Museum: 70 Years of Collecting,” features the Weatherspoon’s collection.

On a recent afternoon, Doll visited the museum and toured the current exhibition “Making Room: Familiar Art, New Stories.” It presents 44 artworks from the museum’s collection of more than 6,500. Each of the 44 was chosen for the innovative exhibition in response to suggestions from community members.

As she toured the gallery spaces, Doll saw many works that joined the collection during her tenure as director, such as Gordon Parks’ “American Gothic, Washington, DC,” Mark Dion’s “Travels of William Bartram Reconsidered,” Sanford Biggers’ “Paket,” and Lary Schwarm’s “Rolling Fire, Eastern Lyon County, Kansas.” In fact, 18 of the 44 became part of the permanent collection during that time.

Art is one of her life’s passions, and she has never been far from it. She fondly recalled the days she could pop out of her Weatherspoon office and be immersed in art.

This prompted us to ask: Do you create art? “I haven’t for years, but I’ve been thinking about it recently,” she said. “I’ve thought, ‘You know, that would be interesting to go back to that, to get some good drawing paper….”

Turns out, she loved creating art before professional responsibilities began taking up so much of her time. “I really liked to draw! I drew more than anything else. But just yesterday, I was thinking, ‘Wouldn’t it be interesting to make a quilt out of COVID masks?’ I don’t know anything (about quilting). But I thought that’d be kind of fun.”

Once an artist, always an artist!

  • Nancy Doll’s planned gift is part of UNCG’s Light the Way: The Campaign for Earned Achievement. To learn more about the campaign, visit