Instead of throwing a lavish soiree in honor of her 50th birthday, Museum patron and supporter Dr. Erica Liebelt opted to celebrate the Birmingham Museum of Art and her love for children with the establishment of a new endowment to support student field trips to the Museum. Thanks to her philanthropic spirit, students from Birmingham City Schools will soon have the proper transportation to shuttle them back and forth to theMuseum on field trips free of charge.
“With school funding being cut for arts and music programs I felt this was a way to contribute a tiny piece of the puzzle to enriching a child’s life,” she says. “When I found out there was a problem getting students to the Museum, I knew I had to help. So instead of making my 50th birthday a milestone for me, I wanted to make it a milestone for other people, especially children.”
A pediatrician and avid BMA volunteer and ambassador, Dr. Liebelt saw the need for more art education during speaking engagements at local Birmingham schools where she’d talk about upcoming Museum exhibitions. “I remember going out to the schools and seeing the need and thirst for knowledge these students had about art.”
Her own thirst for art developed as a child growing up in Texas during Sunday outings to local museums with her mother. Although she eventually pursued a career in medicine, she cultivated her own artistic nature by reading art books and taking art history classes while an undergraduate. Today she extends her support to the art community through her affiliation with the BMA’s European Art Society, the support group for members particularly interested in European art. She has contributed financially to a variety of BMA projects over the years, including a significant recent purchase of art reference materials.
It’s this generosity of spirit and enthusiasm for both the arts and children’s issues that has led to another accolade for Dr. Liebelt. She was recently named “Art Patron of the Year” by the Arts and Lectures Club of Shelby County for her contribution to the BMA bus fund. “I was shocked and honored,” she says. “But being a pediatrician I am committed to advocating for the well being of children not only from a health standpoint but a general standpoint,” she says. “I love interacting with children. I think that their curiosity, magical thinking, and ability to laugh, despite their illness, is something that motivates me a lot.”