Art collector leaves legacy with an extensive art collection and funding to UMFA

Conrad Buff (American, 1886-1975) Canyonlands, ca 1935, oil on masonite, 34 x 51 inches, Purchased with funds from the John Preston Creer and Mary Elizabeth Brockbank Creer Memorial Fund; the John W. and Helen B. Jarman Family Fine Arts Acquisition Fund; a partial gift from Edenhurst Gallery, Daniel Nicodemo, Donald Merrill, Thomas Gianetto, and a gift by exchange from Mr. and Mrs. Robert A. Belanger, UMFA2011.5.1


The Utah Museum of Fine Arts (UMFA) recently received a legacy gift of particularly special note and would like to publicly thank this amazing individual for bequeathing to the UMFA a broad art collection, as well as the necessary funds to help care for that collection and all the important work the Museum does!

Rich Hilligass was born in Orange, California but has strong family roots in Utah as well. He received his graduate degree in Art History from BYU and then lived for many years in Hawaii. Upon returning to Salt Lake, in addition to re-engaging with the UMFA, Rich also regularly enjoys the symphony, opera, ballet, as well as the theater, theme parks, and basically everything our wonderful city has to offer. He delights us every year with a calendar full of images taken from his vast collection of Japanese woodblock prints, and an always-entertaining Christmas card!

The mission of the UMFA is to inspire critical dialogue and illuminate the role of art in our lives. The UMFA relies on public support to make the work we do possible, and all contributions directly support our statewide education outreach efforts, art acquisitions, conservation, exhibitions, public programming, and so much more. Support comes in many forms - from volunteerism and in-kind donations to monetary support and, of course, legacy gifts.

Today, we’d like you to get to know a little more about Rich in his own words - why he loves art, how he came to collect art, and why he chose to leave a legacy gift to the UMFA. Thank you, Rich, we appreciate you so much!!!

My earliest memory of art was a reproduction that my mom bought with S&H Green Stamps. It was of cows by a lake and in the distance, there was a white castle with a red roof and huge mountains rising up. As a little kid I used to stand in front of that picture and just lose myself. My mom also created an art-deco-styled needle-point of the ‘tree of life’ with two unicorns that I still have and cherish.

 I believe that art is important because it challenges us to think about the past and examine the present. It encourages us to evaluate progress -of both art and life- and helps us to realize just “where we’re at.”  My favorite type of art is realism but the right abstract can really be an inspiration too! That being said, my favorite gallery inside the Utah Museum of Fine Arts (UMFA) is the Chinese Gallery and I love collecting Chinese porcelain among many other things!

 I was inspired to start collecting art because I was raised around nice things, both in our home and in our grandparents’ home- and I always knew I wanted to collect nice things as well. But starting an actual collection with the intention to give it away began about 40 years ago. I knew I was going to leave my estate to an institution so collecting with purpose has been in my mind for a very long time. I decided to make my legacy gift to the UMFA because of the comprehensive collection there, and I am excited to help the Museum grow.

I hope my legacy gift inspires others to give to the UMFA – After all, it is THE Art Museum of our capitol city! I hope that students and visitors alike will enjoy fresh new objects – and of course, that the funds will help support all the work of the Museum well into the future.”

The UMFA has received many wonderful legacy gifts over the years that will support and further the mission of the Museum for future generations, and we are forever grateful to the individuals and institutions who have helped make the UMFA what is today – and what it will be tomorrow!