Philanthropy has always been a major force that drives progress in the field of arts and culture with the practice becoming more popular over the last few years.
In 2014, philanthropic contributions to the arts rose to 9.2% according to a report by Giving USA. The total amount of donations last year is estimated at $17.2 billion—a record high.
Given that the overall year-end total from U.S. donors is $358.4 billion, the figure for the sector is most likely undervalued due to the way recipients were categorized in the report. Many charitable sectors, especially those classified under education and foundations, would eventually direct proceeds toward projects that support arts, culture and the humanities. For instance, a university could use the donations it has received to fund a new campus theater or to develop its arts programs.
The largest arts and culture contribution for $70 million, for an expansion project for the Houston Museum of Fine Arts, originated from Fayez Sarofim, an investment manager from Texas. Like Sarofim, the other major donors to the arts are regulars on the Chronicle’s list of top 50 philanthropists: Qualcomm CEO Irwin Jacobs and his wife Joan Klein-Jacobs have continually contributed to the arts in their native San Diego, real estate billionaire Conrad Prebys donated a total of $18.4 million to the La Jolla Music Society and the San Diego Museum of Art, and Bill and Melinda Gates, who took the number one spot on Chronicle’s 2014 list, donated over $1.9 billion — including commissioned artworks celebrating the importance of vaccination.
Aside from nonprofit organizations, businesses also support arts and culture through their own corporate initiatives. The shoe brand Vans came up with Custom Culture, which is an annual art competition for students. Contestants are tasked to design pairs of plain white Vans as if they were blank canvases. More than 2,000 schools from all over the country participate in the event. The program has not only generated $100,000 for public arts education, but it also brought awareness to its current under-funding.
Despite all this good news, donating to the arts can be overlooked in favor of charitable sectors like religion and health services, and most of the aforementioned billion-dollar contributions went to large institutions; so unsupported artists and students, along with smaller institutions generally do not receive enough to sustain themselves. Obviously, there continues to be a long way to go but statistics do show that the trend for philanthropists to consider artistic donations as an option is experiencing an uptick.
Source: Giving USA chart