Following completion of a capital campaign, many organizations choose to recognize their most generous contributors by including their name on a donor wall. As anyone who has designed a donor wall can attest, this can be quite a challenge. Some donors enjoy seeing their name on a wall, while others prefer to hide in the background. Ideally, the wall is creative and aesthetically pleasing while striking the perfect balance between being large and bold enough to be noticed but also subtle and understated so as not to draw too much attention. Last year, Judy Gadiel of Giving Tree Associates worked with Chris-Annmarie Spencer of Wheeler Kearns Architects to design and execute a donor wall for our client Wolcott School, a new private high school in Chicago dedicated to students with learning differences. Wolcott School’s “Wall of Founders” is an architecturally dynamic composition that creatively distinguishes donors in five giving levels, Cornerstone, Pillar, Column, Beam and Brick, and is consistent with the look and feel of the modern building. Each giving level is differentiated by the following features: Color, Dimension and Organization.
Color: Clear acrylic blocks were back painted with varying shades of blue originating from Wolcott’s Pantone blue. Each shade indicates a giving level starting with the darkest shade of blue (Cornerstone donors) to the lightest shade of blue (Brick donors)
Dimension: Height: 2 inches is consistent across all levels Length: a variation of 3 inches per level beginning with 21 inches and ending with 9 inches Thickness: a variation of a ¼ of an inch per level beginning with 1 ¼ inches and ending with a 1/4″ of an inch
Organization: Named donor pieces were arranged randomly with “key” pieces (which visually describe each level) interspersed throughout. This was done to vary the three- dimensional quality of the wall through depth, shade and shadow and to de-emphasize the inherent hierarchical nature a donor wall generally implies. In addition to these pieces a number of blank pieces from each level were incorporated within the matrix to indicate the possibilities of expansion of the wall.
The wall surpassed its desired goals and is beautifully displayed in the entranceway of the school, where it will remain a fitting tribute to Wolcott’s founding donors and capital project. Chris-Annmarie Spencer is an architect with Wheeler Kearns Architects and was the Project Architect for the Wolcott School capital project.