Foundation History

The Nelda C. and H.J. Lutcher Stark Foundation was established as a nonprofit corporation in 1961 by H.J. Lutcher Stark and his wife, Nelda C. Stark, to be operated exclusively for charitable and educational purposes. The stated mission of the Stark Foundation is to encourage and assist education and to improve and enrich the quality of life in Southeast Texas by providing and promoting opportunities for the study and enjoyment of the arts, history and nature.

The Foundation’s charter as a nonprofit corporation was issued by the Texas Secretary of State on February 27, 1961. On December 27, 1962, the Foundation was determined by the Internal Revenue Service to be a tax-exempt organization under 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code, as a result of its organization and operation for charitable purposes. In addition to its status as exempt, contributions made to the Foundation are deductible by donors.

Lutcher Stark served as chairman of the Stark Foundation until his death in 1965. He passed the bulk of his estate to the Stark Foundation, which continued its charitable and educational objectives under the leadership of Nelda C. Stark.

The Foundation thereafter established the Stark Museum of Art (1978), constructed the Frances Ann Lutcher Theater for the Performing Arts (1980) and restored The W.H. Stark House (1971-1981), all located in Orange, Texas. After the death of Nelda C. Stark in 1999, the Board of Directors of the Foundation began efforts to restore the private gardens in Orange, Texas that Lutcher Stark called “Shangri La.” Those efforts culminated in March 2008 with the opening of an award-winning, world-class facility now known as Shangri La Botanical Gardens and Nature Center.

Each of these venues is open to the public in fulfilling the charitable mandate of the Foundation, as each of these venues afford the Southeast Texas community and region a rich resource for study and enjoyment of the arts, history, and nature.

Through its directors and officers, the Stark Foundation today carries on the philanthropic legacy of its founders, Nelda and Lutcher Stark, with the programs of Shangri La Botanical Gardens and Nature Center, The W.H. Stark House, the Stark Museum of Art, the Lutcher Theater, and the Miriam Lutcher Stark Contest in Reading and Declamation, as well as through the support of charitable programming and charitable organizations in and around Southeast Texas that focus on education, health care, social needs, community enhance, and arts and culture.