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Cindy and Tod Johnson
Cindy and Tod Johnson

Gift Will Expand Public Art at Carnegie Mellon

Alumni couple to support Institute for Contemporary Art Pittsburgh’s new home, endowment for art on campus

Media Inquiries
Peter Kerwin
University Communications & Marketing

Inspired by their lifelong passion for art, Carnegie Mellon University alumni Cindy and Tod Johnson have committed $10 million to support public art on the university’s Pittsburgh campus. 

Half of the gift will create the Tod and Cindy Johnson Endowment for Public Art, which will provide funding for CMU’s public art program as well as its Institute for Contemporary Art Pittsburgh (ICA), including acquisition of new art and support for programming and other strategic priorities. The remaining $5 million will support the ICA’s new and greatly expanded home in the Richard King Mellon Hall of Sciences. Carnegie Mellon will break ground for the facility this Friday, April 12.

In recognition of the Johnsons’ generosity, Carnegie Mellon will name the Johnson Family Public Art Curator. In addition, a gallery in the new ICA Pittsburgh will be named in their honor.

“For decades, Cindy and Tod Johnson have been among Carnegie Mellon University’s most visionary and generous supporters,” CMU President Farnam Jahanian(opens in new window) said. “Their passion for our mission is matched by their extraordinary love for the arts, and we are grateful that they are cultivating a legacy that will spark discourse, ideas and creativity across our campus for generations to come.”

A rendering of the Richard King Mellon Hall of Sciences

A rendering of Richard King Mellon Hall of Sciences, with the Institute for Contemporary Art Pittsburgh in the foreground.

The ICA Pittsburgh will double its exhibition space when it moves into the Richard King Mellon Hall of Sciences(opens in new window). Co-located with facilities for departments from the Mellon College of Science(opens in new window) and School of Computer Science(opens in new window), the ICA Pittsburgh will be the cultural and civic anchor for the innovative, multidisciplinary building. With galleries on two levels and public programming spaces, the ICA Pittsburgh will expand its offerings and contribute to elevating the region in the national and global arts and culture conversation. Its prominent new location adjacent to the renowned Carnegie Museums of Pittsburgh will spark expanded collaborations with the institution. Construction on the new building is expected to be complete in 2027.

“Carnegie Mellon has been a special place for Cindy and me since we met as students. In fact, Cindy earned her fine arts degree from what was then Carnegie Tech, deepening our love and appreciation for the arts, which has been a passion throughout our lives,” Tod Johnson said. “With this gift, we are thrilled to provide support for the ICA Pittsburgh, which will become a CMU and Pittsburgh focal point for groundbreaking art exhibitions and programming, and more broadly for public art on campus for many years ahead.” 

“Inverted Dancer” by Thaddeus Mosely

“Inverted Dancer” by Thaddeus Mosely

CMU has long recognized the value of public art on its campuses. Since 2013, Carnegie Mellon has committed to incorporating public art in all new building construction as part of the Simonds Commission(opens in new window)’s principles. Recently completed projects include “Making Way” by Jessica Stockholder at the new Alan Magee Scaife Hall, “Good Thoughts, Good Words, Good Deeds”(opens in new window) by Stephanie Dinkins inside TCS Hall, and "Inverted Dancer(opens in new window)" by Thaddeus Mosely in the courtyard at Fifth and Clyde House. The university will soon unveil a new installation of commissioned work by Amanda Ross-Ho at its residence hall on Forbes and Beeler as well as a work by Guadalupe Maravilla at the Highmark Center for Health, Wellness and Athletics.

“Carnegie Mellon’s commitment to public art and interdisciplinary collaboration has created a program unique to higher education. This program will be further enhanced by the new ICA Pittsburgh, which will position us to create experiences that promote conversation and bring meaning to our contemporary life like nowhere else,” said Elizabeth Chodos(opens in new window), the inaugural Johnson Family Public Art Curator and director of the ICA Pittsburgh. “I am honored to be the first to hold this position and to be able to use these generous resources to advance the arts at CMU, in the Pittsburgh region and beyond.”

Elizabeth Chodos and artist Stephanie Dinkins in front of “Good Thoughts, Good Words, Good Deeds.”

Elizabeth Chodos and artist Stephanie Dinkins in front of “Good Thoughts, Good Words, Good Deeds.” 

Cindy and Tod Johnson met and married while they were both students at the Carnegie Institute of Technology. Cindy earned a bachelor’s degree in art in 1968, and Tod earned a bachelor’s degree in graphic arts management in 1966 and a master’s degree in industrial administration in 1967. 

Cindy is an arts advocate who has been involved with the Guggenheim Museum and Neuberger Museum of Art. She serves as co-chair of the board of directors for St. Mary’s Healthcare System for Children in New York. In 1984, Andy Warhol created a portrait of Cindy in his iconic artistic style; the work is in the collection of the Museum Brandhorst in Munich, Germany.

Since 2022, Tod has been the co-founder and managing director of Duo Partners, a New York-based investment and consulting firm. Previously, he was the executive chairman of The NPD Group, a global market-research firm that he led for 51 years; today he is chair of the Board of Directors for Circana, a company founded by the merger of NPD and IRI in 2023. 

An emeritus member of CMU’s Board of Trustees(opens in new window) on which he has served for more than four decades, Tod also has held numerous volunteer leadership roles at Carnegie Mellon, including chairing its Centennial Campaign. In 2019, Tod was awarded the university’s Founders Medal for Outstanding Achievement. He is the president and chief executive officer of The Metropolitan Opera.

During Make Possible: The Campaign for Carnegie Mellon University, the Johnsons previously gave $50 million for a transformational endowment that supports undergraduate scholarships(opens in new window) as well as persistence activities that help students stay on the path to graduation. The contribution was the single largest gift for scholarship support in the university’s history. In addition, their previous gifts include the establishment of the Herbert A. Simon Professorship of Economics and Psychology, support for the Tepper Quad and Purnell Center for the Arts, and an endowment for the university’s Fifth-Year Scholars Program. 

The Johnsons’ commitment is the latest transformational gift toward the Make Possible(opens in new window) campaign. CMU’s generous community of more than 67,000 donors has given nearly $2.3 billion to date for critical strategic initiatives, including capital projects like the Hall of Sciences, initiatives across its seven colleges and schools, and endowment support that fuels the work and impact of its exceptional students, faculty and staff.

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