The Toledo Museum of Art (TMA) and the entire Toledo community are mourning the loss of TMA supporter and donor Rita Barbour Kern of Perrysburg, Ohio. Mrs. Kern (born in 1925), whose husband, Dr. Edward A. Kern, passed away in 1987, was an active member of the Museum for nearly half a century.
“We are mourning the passing of Rita Kern, who was a cherished part of the TMA family for decades,” said Museum Director Brian Kennedy. “She treasured this Museum as her own, and on behalf of current and former Museum staff and supporters, we pay tribute to her vision, dedication and enthusiasm. She will be deeply missed. Rita loved the natural world: birds, frogs, flowers, trees and her view to the Maumee River. She honored equally the capacity of human creativity to make beautiful and meaningful objects. She truly believed in lifelong learning. She wanted everyone in Toledo to value its great art museum.”
Raised and educated in northwestern Ohio, Mrs. Kern first joined the Museum as a member of the TMA Ambassadors in 1970, and served as an honorary board member from 2011 to 2016. She was a current member of the Director’s Circle, Georgia Welles Apollo Society, Libbey Circle and Library League.
Over the years, Mrs. Kern provided support for a number of significant projects across the Museum, such as the renovation of the Rotunda and the development of the Jewelry Gallery; an array of collections-based educational initiatives and special exhibitions; and campus enhancements that incorporated new exterior lighting, beautifications to the Museum grounds and the establishment of the Rita B. Kern Garden, which encompasses flowers, herbs, a fountain and a chef’s garden for the Museum Café.
Highlights of her considerable and wide-ranging gifts of art to the Museum include contemporary sculpture by Petah Coyne, jewelry designed by Louis C. Tiffany and Georges Braque, glass art by Lee Bul, artist’s books by Aminah Robinson, works on paper by Dale Chihuly and European and American decorative art and furniture. Most recently she helped purchase Jaume Plensa’s monumental outdoor sculpture Spiegel (2010) for the Museum.
“Rita was extremely kind and generous, elegant and unassuming,” said TMA Director of Development Todd Ahrens. “She loved the Museum, and we were fortunate to have her so involved. We will miss her, but remember and celebrate her life and her commitment to supporting the arts and art education.”
Mrs. Kern’s generosity extended to other greater Toledo organizations, especially the Toledo Symphony.