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Why We Need to Donate to the Arts

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In a globe wrought with violence, discrimination, insufficient healthcare, amongst other plights, we must ask ourselves, how do the arts benefit us? When thinking about the impact of a trip to our local museum or a large philanthropic donation, we are moved to consider the voice of culture. Why does culture matter? In this post we’ll look at the voices of some of the world’s leaders in art philanthropy to learn why.

Arts organizations are characteristically entities that must take risks, according to the NPQ, indicating an ongoing need for reserve funds. When the recession hit the U.S., some saw ferocious losses in investment income corroding cushions while others were surprised midstream in capital campaigns or flunking real estate investments. By 2012, however, the most generous members of the 1% contributed more than 2% of their charitable income giving to arts and culture, according to the Chronicle of Philanthropy.

One couple, forging the path of philanthropic arts giving, is the Broads. In their hometown of Los Angeles, California, Eli and Edythe Broad have worked tirelessly to make legendary contemporary art and architecture accessible to people whom otherwise would not approach the arts. In 1984, The Broad Art Foundation was founded to increase public access to contemporary art through its groundbreaking loan program. Since its foundation, the Broad Art Foundation has made over 8,500 loans to five hundreds museums and galleries worldwide. In an interview with Leaders, Eli Broad states that philanthropy is more than just writing checks, “ I’ve been an entrepreneur since I started working at age 23 so whatever I’ve done has always been entrepreneurial. What we’ve done with philanthropy has been along that same vein. We don’t just write checks – we look at opportunities, at needs; we create institutions and programs, and the like.”

Leslie Wexner, an inspiration in Ohio, is more than just a business leader at the helm of L Brands, (including the internationally popular Victoria’s Secret, PINK, Bath & Body Works, White Barn Candle Co., La Senza and Henri Bendel brands). The Wexner Center for the Arts, The Ohio State University’s multidisciplinary laboratory for contemporary art, was opened in November 1989 with the vision of bringing cutting-edge culture from around the world to Columbus, Ohio. Privately funded, Wexner and their donors support programs that challenge and engage artists and audiences throughout the year and celebrate the center’s achievements. Wexner emphasizes partnership, especially in a community like Central Ohio, and this is arguably why his foundation has been so powerful in the arts sector.

Supporting the arts fuels creativity in young people and provides a platform for critical debate on sensitive politics and social issues. Chris Stone, a criminal justice of the Open Society Foundations, argues that “the connection of artists and their audiences upholds freedom of association and the exchange of ideas in circumstances that otherwise would not be possible.”

We need the arts. It is how we communicate. Through the medium of artistic expression, we build society through discussion instead of brute force and violence.

Let’s continue to advocate for the performing, visual, and literary arts so societies can thrive and blossom. When we invest in the arts, we invest in our future.