The Artist as Philanthropist: The Rise of Private Foundations Created by Visual Artists

Private foundations created by artists such as Robert Rauschenberg, Joan Mitchell, Andy Warhol, and Helen Frankenthaler are emerging as a new force in cultural philanthropy and artistic heritage stewardship. On July 25, 2015, AEFI and the Clark Art Institute, Williamstown, MA, presented a public panel discussion examining the factors that are shaping this important phenomenon.

clarkThe presentation drew on research findings of AEFI’s National Study of Artist-Endowed Foundations, the first research effort to examine this small but fast-growing field, which as of 2013 had documented more than 380 foundations, many created in the past two decades, holding $3.5 billion in assets, including $2 billion in artworks and intellectual property. The Study found that these organizations make grants to nonprofits, artists and scholars. They steward art collections, operate study centers, conduct scholarship, contribute artwork to museums, manage artist residency facilities and administer art education programs. Some focus solely in the arts while others also address social issues, such as HIV/AIDS and the environment. In 2010, artist-endowed foundations expended $132 million for charitable purposes.

Panelists for the discussion included:

  • Christa Blatchford, CEO, Joan Mitchell Foundation
  • Elizabeth Smith, Executive Director, Helen Frankenthaler Foundation
  • Nancy Mowll Mathews, Senior Curator Emerita, Williams College Museum of Art
  • Stephen K. Urice, Professor of Law, University of Miami School of Law, AEFI Academic Advisor
  • Christine J. Vincent, Project Director, AEFI

Jennifer Dowley, President, Berkshire Taconic Community Foundation, served as moderator.