Press Release

Rothko Chapel Awarded $500,000 By Fondren Foundation for its Opening Spaces Campaign

September 13, 2023

This award will help fund phase two of the Rothko Chapel’s campus expansion plan,

and is the second gift from the Fondren Foundation for its capital campaign



Houston, TX –  The Rothko Chapel today announced that it has received a $500,000 gift from the Fondren Foundation, a Houston-based non-profit organization that supports agencies for education, health, and human services. This gift will support phase two of the Rothko Chapel’s multi-year Opening Spaces campaign, which is funding the restoration and campus expansion that will allow the Chapel to expand its mission. This is the second campaign donation from the Fondren Foundation, which awarded the Chapel $300,000 for the first phase of its campaign.


The Rothko Chapel’s $35-million Opening Spaces campaign is anchored by a masterplan that focuses on how best to address the ever-increasing interest in, and visitation to, the Chapel, restore the Chapel to its founders’ original intent, and expand its programming. Phase one of the masterplan was completed in 2020 and construction will begin on phase two later this year.


Phase one included the complete restoration of the Chapel building itself – the first comprehensive renewal since it was built – including a new skylight, new landscape enhancements, and infrastructure improvements, as well as the construction of the new Suzanne Deal Booth Welcome House.


Phase two includes a new meditation garden; a guest bungalow to provide dedicated housing for Chapel speakers and fellows; and the construction of two new buildings on the north side of the campus— an Administration and Archives Building and a Program Center. When completed in 2024, this new North Campus will offer dedicated indoor and outdoor multi-use spaces for programming and community gatherings, bolstered by critical infrastructure and state of the art audio/visual equipment.


Christopher Rothko, Chairman of Opening Spaces says, “Through this transformational master plan, we hope to create new facilities and enhanced grounds that reflect the Chapel’s role as a premier cultural and human rights institution, while at the same time facilitating the responsible stewardship of the extraordinary art and historic architecture in its care. We are appreciative of the Fondren Foundation’s continual support in helping us achieve these goals.”


“We are grateful to have received the support from the Fondren Foundation during both phases of our restoration and renovation plan,” says David Leslie, Executive Director of the Rothko Chapel. “When phase two of our expansion plan is completed, we hope our campus becomes a robust cultural destination for advanced dialogue and engagement among our growing community and visitors.”


The Fondren Foundation was established in 1948 by Ella Florence Fondren, the widow of Walter W. Fondren, one of the founders of Humble Oil and Refining Company (later Exxon Company, U.S.A.). The foundation is based in Houston, TX and supports agencies for education, health, and human services. The chair of the board of governors rotates among family members.


The Opening Spaces campaign has, to date, raised more than $24.5 million with the help of private donors and foundations located throughout Texas and the country. The initial phase of the campaign received major contributions from numerous foundations, including the Houston Endowment, The Brown Foundation, Inc., The Cullen Foundation, The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation and The John R. Eckel, Jr. Foundation, as well as individuals such as Lynn Wyatt and Suzanne Deal Booth.

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