Mission & History



Founded in 1956, the Graham Foundation for Advanced Studies in the Fine Arts fosters the development and exchange of diverse and challenging ideas about architecture and its role in the arts, culture, and society. The Graham realizes this vision through making project-based grants to individuals and organizations and producing exhibitions, events, and publications.


The Graham Foundation was created in 1956 by a bequest from Ernest R. Graham (1866–1936), a prominent Chicago architect and protégé of Daniel Burnham.

In 1955 Charles Murphy, Ernest Graham's associate and executer, organized a conference in Aspen, Colorado with the assistance of John Burchard. Participants included Pietro Belluschi, William Wurster, John Lyon Reid, Eero Saarinen, Catherine Bauer, Aline Saarinen, Rudolph Arnheim, Jimmy Ernst, Robert Iglehart, and Charles Rummel. From these meetings evolved the initial plan which led, over time, to the development of the Graham Foundation as it exists today.

Charles Murphy served as the Foundation’s first President and William Hartmann as the Foundation’s first Director. The character and mission of the Graham Foundation were further refined by John Entenza, who served as Director from 1960 to 1971; by Carter Manny, who directed the Foundation from 1971 through 1993; and by Richard Solomon, Director of the Foundation from 1993 to 2005. Sarah Herda assumed the role as Director in 2006.

Aspen Conference, 1955. Clockwise from top left: Aline Saarinen and Eero Saarinen; Robert Igelhart and Jimmy Ernst; Rudolph Arnheim, William Hartmann, and Pietro Belluschi; John Lyon Reid and Charles Murphy; Charles Rummel; John Burchard; Catherine Bauer Wurster.