Grants to Green


Steffen Thomas Museum of Art “Goes Green”

In December 2014 the Steffen Thomas Museum of Art received a Grants to Green assessment grant from The Community Foundation for Greater Atlanta.

Grants to Green provides environmentally focused knowledge and funding to strengthen nonprofits in the Atlanta region. The founding partners of Grants to Green are The Community Foundation for Greater Atlanta (, providing expertise in grant making, and Southface (, providing expertise in energy efficiency.

The Steffen Thomas Museum of Art (STMA) is a “single-artist” museum displaying the art of Steffen Thomas (1906-1990).  Soon after his death, the artist’s widow began plans to preserve her husband’s art and make it available to the public. Thomas’s last studio was in Midtown Atlanta, but, because of site infrastructure problems and zoning issues, the decision was made to build on rural property near the home of the artist’s son in Buckhead, GA, near Madison.

The Museum facililty is a well insulated metal building that was built in 1995, with additions added in 1997 and 1999. The 13,000 square foot facility includes art galleries, an art education space for teaching workshops, a museum shop, staff office space, and storage areas for art and museum supplies. The facility has always been used as a museum.

In December 2014 the Steffen Thomas Museum of Art received a Grants to Green assessment grant from The Community Foundation for Greater Atlanta.  Lisa Conner, the Museum’s Facilities Manager, volunteered to be the Grants to Green “Green Champion” for STMA. Lisa found it very informative to work with Southface engineer, Jean Pullen, during the assessment period.  During the site visits Ms. Pullen pointed out ways that improvements could be made to the lighting throughout the building by updating to an LED system; she suggested replacing one of the HVAC unit that was out of order with a more energy wise unit; and she made suggestions for other ways to improve the facility’s energy efficiency.  In her report to the Board of Directors Ms. Pullen made specific suggestions for projects that were thought to be feasible and would increase overall energy efficiency at the Museum. She also included estimates for the cost of these projects. The organization’s ability to match the funds that might be granted was a factor in making the final decision about which projects to pursue.

As a result of following Ms. Pullen’s advice during the assessment period, the Museum’s power bills were significantly reduced, with hardly spending a dime.  This was achieved by doing the following things: ventilation fan settings for all 7 HVAC units were changed from the “on” setting to the “auto” setting; a new HVAC service company was hired to thoroughly service all units (the previous service company was being paid to do this but had done a poor job); the Green Champion emphasized to staff the need to turn off lights in unoccupied rooms and galleries; an open vent from the main mechanical room to the art storage room was pointed out and subsequently closed off; settings on several thermostats in the galleries were changed from 70° to 68° in the heat mode.   It also should be noted that over a period of a couple years, approximately 40 burned out halogen track light bulbs were gradually replaced with LED bulbs. This cost about $1,000; however, with all the changes, energy bills were significantly reduced, with a savings of $2,000, before even beginning the new upgrades.

STMA subsequently applied for and was awarded a Grants to Green implementation grant.  Projects included: weatherization upgrades; replacement of 180+ halogen bulbs with LED bulbs in the track lighting system in galleries and other areas of the building; replacement of 56 florescent fixtures with LED troffers throughout the building; replacement of non functioning HVAC duel fuel unit with a new high efficiency electric heat pump; new electronic thermostats for all 7 HVAC units; installation of high efficiency ENERGY STAR appliances to replace 20 year old appliances; installation of occupancy / vacancy controls in all rooms and dimmer switches in the galleries.

One of the organization's challenges has always been paying for 50% of the utilities for the facility. (These bills are shared with the owner/landlord who retains office and storage space in the museum.) The track lighting in the galleries has used halogen light bulbs in the past, but because of the changes in the availability of this type of bulb, burned out bulbs had to be replaced with LED bulbs for track lights, which are five times as expense as halogen bulbs. STMA's electrician estimated that it would cost $5,000 to just replace all the old halogen bulbs with LED bulbs. With the assessment grant we were able to evaluate the overall lighting system and develp a plan for updating the system for the entire building. The Green Champion also learned a lot about energy saving methods and other improvements to the facility that would make it more energy efficient in general. The Implementation grant allowed STMA to proceed with the projects outlined and subsequently lower the energy bills even more – a total of 46% reduction in energy use and $4,382 over all savings on energy bills since the beginning of the projects. In June 2016 STMA received recognition as a 2015 Top Performer by the Atlanta Better Buildings Challenge for lowering energy usage by 41% in calendar year 2015.

Funding staff salaries is the organization's biggest challenge, and the savings on energy costs is allowing the organization to expand staff hours. Having a more energy efficient facility will insure that the organization's Permanent Collection of art is protected and preserved in the kind of climate controlled atmosphere recommended for museums. It is also important to continue to provide a comfortable environment for visitors to the Museum. STMA Green Champion is enthusiastically sharing what has been learned about environmental sustainablity with other organizations in the community.

Report submitted by STMA Green Champion Lisa Conner
September 7, 2016
Steffen Thomas Museum of Art
4200 Bethany Road
Buckhead, GA 30625

Steffen Thomas Museum of Art is Recognized for Being a Leader in Energy Conservation

In June of 2016, STMA was recognized by the Atlanta Better Buildings Challenge (ABBC) as being a leader in energy conservation. Launched in June of 2011, the Atlanta Better Buildings Challenge is part of a nationwide program of conservation founded by President Obama and the Department of Energy's Better Building Challenge program. Atlanta's goal is to reduce energy and water consumption in participating buildings by 20% by 2020. Currently, ABBC includes over 400 buildings in the greater Atlanta area, representing over 100 million square feet, and includes organizations such as the Woodruff Arts Center, the Fox Theater, and the Atlanta History Museum. Since 2015, these participating buildings have instituted changes that have resulted in over 17% energy savings and 22% water savings.

This year's ABBC awards ceremony was held in Atlanta and the College Football Hall of Fame and was hosted by former NFL and Atlanta Falcons player Ovie Mughelli. The awards were presented by Atlanta mayor Kasim Reed and Stephanie Benfield, the Director of the Mayor's office of Sustainability. Lisa Conner, STMA's Green Champion and STMA Advisory Panel member Susan Weibel represented the museum at the event.

STMA is proud to honor both Steffen Thomas's legacy as well as the museum's mission of environmental conservation. Through our participation in programs such as Grants to Green and the Atlanta Better Buildings Challenge, STMA is committed to being environmentally responsible and sustainable, and making a difference everyday. For more information on the Atlanta Better Buildings Challenge, and to find out ways that you can help reduce energy and water consumption, please visit their website at

    Untitled-6                                                                                                                       STMA's Green Champion Lisa Conner poses with Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed, and STMA advisory panel member Susan Weibel at the ABBC awards ceremony.

UntitledLisa Conner and Susan Weibel pose with Dennis Creech, the Executive Director of Southface, another ABBC award recipient.


Former NFL player and Atlanta Falcon Ovie Mughelli was the emcee for the evening.


Awards were presented by Stephanie Benfield, Director of the Mayor's office of Sustainability, and Atlanta Mayor, Kasim Reed.


Lisa Conner, STMA's Green Champion, holding STMA's certificate of recognition.

STMA Receives Grants to Green Matching Grant

In November 2016, STMA were notified that we will be a recipient of a Grants to Green Matching Funding Grant from the Community Foundation of Greater Atlanta. This is a 2-1 matching grant, and STMA will be using these funds towards our goals of energy efficiency.

STMA will begin work as soon as the grant money is received, to complete the project of replacing the five HVAC units in our facility, which will complete our transition to all electric units. This transition will allow STMA to conserve both energy and funding.

STMA thanks the Community Foundation of Greater Atlanta and the Grants to Green organizations, as well as the tireless efforts of our own Grants to Green Champion, Lisa Conner.


The Community Foundation for Greater Atlanta connects donors, nonprofits and community leaders to strengthen the Atlanta region through philanthropy. The Community Foundation does this by providing quality services to donors and innovative leadership on community issues. Please visit the Foundation’s website at for more information.

For more information about how Grants to Green has helped STMA and how the program can help other nonprofit organizations, please contact Lisa Conner at (706) 342-7557.