Statement from the Dallas Museum of Art on the Death of Peter O’Donnell

Dallas, TX—October 14, 2021—The Dallas Museum of Art (DMA) greatly mourns the passing of Mr. Peter O’Donnell, a passionate champion of the arts and education. Mr. O’Donnell’s tremendous generosity and dedication to the DMA advanced the Museum’s commitment to access through free general admission and accelerated the Museum’s ambitions to scale its reach and impact in the digital space. Mr. O’Donnell, along with his wife, Mrs. Edith O’Donnell, demonstrated a deep and personal commitment to the work and mission of the DMA, and through the O’Donnell Foundation, which they founded, helped position the Museum as an innovative leader in the field up to this day.

A Dallas native and World War II veteran, Mr. O’Donnell’s decades-long history of giving, service, and visionary philanthropy has touched all parts of the DMA. He served on the Museum’s Board of Trustees from 1973 to 1976, and since 1971 Mr. O’Donnell’s extraordinary gifts to the DMA have supported building projects and initiatives to expand the possibilities of art, education, and technology.

In 2013 Edith and Peter O’Donnell personally and through the O’Donnell Foundation made a multiyear gift of $9 million to reestablish the DMA’s free general admission policy and to support the digitization of the Museum’s entire collection. This donation enabled the DMA to become one of the world’s most open museums to both visitors in the city and web users around the globe. Since the Museum’s return to free general admission in 2013, the DMA has welcomed more than five million visitors. The four-year effort to digitize the Museum’s entire collection, which began in 2014, increased the number of artworks published in the DMA’s online collection database from 7,000 to over 25,000 objects.

The visionary investment in the online collection database proved to be an invaluable asset through the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic, which saw the Museum close for five months in 2020. With this tremendous resource, the DMA was able to pivot quickly to the digital sphere to sustain and grow its engagement with audiences worldwide. In addition to images and label information for every object, thousands of objects have a description, multimedia recordings, and/or additional web resources. The DMA’s online database continues to provide a wealth of knowledge on the Museum’s collection for students, scholars, and digital guests even as the Museum has reopened.

In 2020 the DMA received another gift of $1.42 million from the O’Donnell Foundation to support expanding digital transformation initiatives, including a comprehensive redevelopment of the Museum’s website, infrastructure and systems upgrades, and the development of a constituent relationship management solution.

“Peter’s deep engagement in the philanthropic community of Dallas, his unwavering commitment to education, his meaningful contributions to the DMA, and his dedication to making Dallas a better place to live, work, and learn shaped the artistic and cultural landscape of Texas in exceptional ways. His tremendous generosity and visionary leadership were truly inspiring, and we know generations to come will continue to feel the impact of his investments within our community. We are thinking of Peter’s family, and the O’Donnell Foundation as a whole, and sending warm wishes for comfort and healing. Peter’s legacy at both the DMA and in Dallas is a testament to his kind, humble, and generous spirit, and we will miss him dearly,” shared Agustín Arteaga, the DMA’s Eugene McDermott Director.

About the Dallas Museum of Art
Established in 1903, the Dallas Museum of Art (DMA) is among the 10 largest art museums in the country. With a free general admission policy and community outreach efforts, the DMA is distinguished by its commitment to research, innovation, and public engagement. At the heart of the Museum and its programs is its global collection, which encompasses 25,000 works and spans 5,000 years of history, representing a full range of world cultures. Located in the nation’s largest arts district, the Museum acts as a catalyst for community creativity, engaging people of all ages and backgrounds with a diverse spectrum of programming, from exhibitions and lectures to concerts, literary events, and dramatic and dance presentations. The DMA is an Open Access institution, allowing all works believed to be in the public domain to be freely available for downloading, sharing, repurposing, and remixing without restriction. For more information, visit

The Dallas Museum of Art is supported, in part, by the generosity of DMA Members and donors, the National Endowment for the Arts, the Texas Commission on the Arts, and the citizens of Dallas through the City of Dallas Office of Arts and Culture.


For more information, please contact:
Jill Bernstein, Director of Communications and Public Affairs