Press Release

September 14, 2023

MEDIA CONTACT: Brian Passey | [email protected] | 480-874-4626

Scottsdale Arts receives largest gift in its history, continues expansion plans fueled by $15M in raised capital funding

The Michael and Ellen Ziegler estate has awarded more than $11.5 million to Scottsdale Arts.
Archival photo from a Scottsdale Arts event on Nov. 15, 1995.

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — Scottsdale Arts, one of Arizona’s largest arts nonprofit organizations, recently received notification from the Michael and Ellen Ziegler trust that the Ziegler estate has awarded more than $11.5 million to the organization.

Most of these funds will be pledged toward a future capital infrastructure project, honoring the family’s passion for the arts and arts education. The extraordinary gift represents the largest single donation in Scottsdale Arts’ history.

“We are equal parts excited about this gift and saddened by the tremendous loss to our community,” said Dr. Gerd Wuestemann, president and CEO of Scottsdale Arts. “Ellie and Michael were among the most wonderful people we knew, with a deep sense of commitment to the arts and philanthropic endeavors. We miss their presence every day and are deeply committed to honoring their legacy through responsible stewardship and commemorating them with new facilities and services.”

Scottsdale Arts, which is becoming one of the most important creative and cultural hubs in the Southwest, comprises six distinct departments: Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts, Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art (SMoCA), Scottsdale Public Art, Scottsdale Arts Learning & Innovation, Canal Convergence and Civic Center LIVE.

After Ellen Ziegler’s death in 2022, an initial $1.5 million estate gift combined with a $1.5 million capital grant from the Virginia G. Piper Trust and other funding to enable Scottsdale Arts’ plans to build a new Ziegler Theater. The project comprises a 240-seat, high-end, modular theater, slated for completion in time for the 50th anniversary of Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts in 2025.

With Michael Ziegler’s recent passing, a remaining gift totaling more than $11.5 million will come to Scottsdale Arts over the course of the next nine months. This fund is slated toward a future capital project, expanding Scottsdale Arts’ services to the community through arts engagement and education. The new infrastructure piece will be dedicated to the memory of the Ziegler family.

“This is a once-in-a-lifetime gift to our organization,” said Scottsdale Arts’ board chair and former Scottsdale city councilmember Dennis Robbins. “Over the past five years, Scottsdale Arts has proven to be an integral part of the community, taking great care with the public and private resources entrusted to us and serving 800,000 patrons per year with arts engagement for everyone. With the new Scottsdale Civic Center opening this fall, a new theater on the horizon and now this legacy gift, our future looks very bright indeed.”

For more information about Scottsdale Arts and its programs, visit

Concept design for the future Ziegler Theater (left) at Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts.
Rendering: Gensler