On 4 November 1966, a disastrous high tide struck the city of Venice, severely damaging many historical buildings. UNESCO launched a worldwide appeal intended to raise funds for the restoration of the monuments damaged by the exceptionally high tide. Thus numerous international non-profit organizations were born, united in an effort to economically support the unavoidable restoration works.
Larry Lovett, an experienced philanthropist and the President and Chairman of the Metropolitan Opera Guild of New York, was one of the first to import to Italy the American fund-raising system, organizing a series of ‘benefit events’ in Venice.
Between the Eighties and the Nineties, he worked as Chairman of Save Venice Inc., attracting many supporters which contributed to funding important conservative interventions such as the one of the Chiesa dei Miracoli, an architectural masterpiece of the early Venetian Renaissance.
In 1999, conscious of the future dismantling of the borders between member states in the European Community, Mr. Lovett began to think forward with the help of Maria Teresa Rubin de Cervin Albrizzi, Lesa Marcello Alverà, and Toto Bergamo Rossi, he organized a series of exploratory visits to the areas near Venice and on the Dalmatian coast that were once part of the Republic of Venice. There, he laid the ground for a newly expanded mission: the safeguarding and promoting of the entire immense cultural heritage of the ancient Republic: Venetian Heritage was born.
We immediately began with a number of very ambitious projects, such as the restoration of the magnificent Orsini Chapel and Romanic portal of the Cathedral of Saint Lawrence in Trogir, Croatia, two masterpieces of Venetian art, largely unknown and in dire need of restoration. A grant by the Getty Foundation gave a major contribution to the project, and Venetian Heritage was awarded the Europa Nostra-European Union award for its work on the Orsini Chapel, as the best restoration intervention of 2003.
During this period, Venetian Heritage also offered numerous study grants for the training of restorers specialized in the conservation of stone works.
The cosmopolitan Khalil Ritzk was the first President of the newly founded organization. He successfully organized Venetian Heritage’s first Gala Benefit Events in New York, while in Venice, Larry Lovett, along with Lesa Marcello, coordinated the various restoration projects to be financed, brilliantly managing the complex legal and bureaucratic issues.
In 2001, funds were raised for the restorations of the eighteenth-century façade of the Church of the Jesuits and the early Renaissance façade of the Church of San Zaccaria in Venice. Numerous other restoration projects followed, focused on important examples of Venetian art in Venice and on the Dalmatian coast, which were often followed by traveling exhibitions.
For many years Pierre Durand held the function of president, generously providing to Venetian Heritage the New York office, while Muffy Miller acted as chairman.
With the rising interest of numerous European corporate sponsors, it became necessary to have a formal body in Italy, and Venetian Heritage Italy was established, with its own board and headquarters in Venice.
The foundation Venetian Heritage Onlus (Venice), thanks to the enlightened presidency of Valentina Marini Chiarelli Nasi, and Venetian Heritage Inc. (New York), under the excellent guidance of architect Peter Marino, work together unceasingly to support the ever more ambitious projects.
In the last decade, Venetian Heritage expanded its range of action through a series of projects aimed at not only preserving important venetian artistic masterpieces but also promoting and emphasizing existing realities such as certain venetian state museums which are the Gallerie dell’Accademia, Palazzo Grimani and the Galleria Giorgio Franchetti alla Ca’ d’Oro.
Venetian Heritage recognizes and thanks all that have generously supported the activities that have been promoted until now, and looks forward to the future knowing that it can count on the enthusiasm that Venice has generated for many centuries.