In this installment of 5 Celebrities Who Support the Arts – Part 4, we’re covering a president, an actress and three singers, which goes to show that performers aren’t the only people who care about the preservation of the arts.
Bill Clinton — Artists for a New South Africa
Bill Clinton needs to no introduction. The two-term president of the United States, Clinton has been a dedicated patron of the arts and charities. Aside from the involvement of multiple nonprofits (and an aptitude for the saxophone), former president Bill Clinton supports Artists for a New South Africa (ANSA), a collection of actors, performers and other creative personalities who donate millions of dollars to African nonprofits — including those that supply books to orphans and medical supplies to poverty-stricken communities.
Founded in 1989 by actors Alfre Woodard, Danny Glover, Mary Steenburgen, and others, ANSA has since raised and granted over nine million dollars to African charities that aid in the advancement of education, AIDS/HIV education and prevention and human rights.
Angelina Jolie — Cinema for Peace
Angelina Jolie, a stalwart philanthropist and former UN Refugee Agency Goodwill Ambassador, is no stranger to important philanthropic causes. Cinema for Peace promotes international understanding through film. Founded in 2002, Cinema for Peace events have been attended by high profile celebrities, some of whom are awarded for philanthropic works and charities. Those who go out of their way to promote the need for charity and giving throughout the world are honored for their efforts in raising the awareness of the needs of poor communities.
Annie Lennox — US Comic Relief
Former singer of the highly popular 1980s band Eurythmics, Annie Lennox changed the face of gender via MTV. Also successful in her solo career, Lennox gives back by bringing comedy and funds to those in need, specifically the homeless and those who experience social injustice around the world.
By raising public funds and distributing them effectively, Comic Relief is involved with events, projects that are fun, educational and raise awareness.
John Legend — Save the Music
John Legend’s name is appropriate as he has become a legendary performer, songwriter, producer and award-winning singer. Legend has garnered nine Grammy Awards, one Golden Globe and one Academy Award. In 2007, Legend received the special Starlight Award from the Songwriters Hall of Fame. Most recently, his performance with Common at the 2015 Oscars performance of Glory from the Selma soundtrack left not a dry eye in the house.
The musician’s dedication to the nonprofit organization Save the Music helps improve the quality of America’s schools through the restoration of music programs. Raising public awareness about the importance of the arts to the mental and emotional advancement of our youth, Save the Music attempts to keep music programs within public schools.
Lady Gaga — Artists for Peace and Justice
This performer has shown her versatility by performing dance tracks to old standards (with Tony Bennett for Cheek to Cheek). Through her often avant-garde style of performing, many people are unaware that Gaga is a talented songstress, with one of the most powerful voices of our time. When not performing, Lady Gaga gives much of her time to nonprofit initiatives — including Artists for Peace and Justice (APJ)
APJ is a fundraising initiative that encourages peace and social justice throughout the world, addressing issues of poverty and education internationally. Recently, APJ has directed its efforts to raising funds for schools in Haiti to support disaster relief, education, and distribution of food and water. Following the devastating earthquake in Haiti, APJ has focused its efforts on raising much needed funds for emergency relief efforts in the ravaged country.
Globally known people are giving back on a global scale. Finding new ways to band together to create or support programs that give back to needy communities, celebrities are showing they are growing in numbers and contributing in worthwhile ways.
Philanthropy on the rise
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
George Clooney supports the arts
In part three of top five celebrities who support the arts, their involvements in nonprofits spread care, tolerance and help to those around the world using different art mediums. Of the five celebrities featured, there is a knight, a chef and an Ocean:
Sting has been devoted to bringing the arts, specifically in music, to disadvantaged youth across the world. The singer-songwriter has donated his time and money to many different music-related charities, including Harmony Sistema England, a charity that spreads music and the values of Venezuela’s El Sistema to English youth; Musicians on Call, an organization that provides patients in healthcare facilities with live and recorded music; and Society of Singers, a foundation that protects the health and welfare of professional singers around the globe.
Known as one of the most charitable celebrities, of films like Ocean’s 11, George Clooney’s charity donates millions of dollars to relief funds for countries devastated by natural disasters. In fact, Clooney was named the United Nations Messenger of Peace in 2008 for his efforts at raising awareness about philanthropic initiatives. According to Look to the Stars, Clooney is involved in over 20 charities, including Cinema for Peace which promotes tolerance through film.
Like George Clooney, Ben Affleck is also involved with Cinema for Peace, as well as other charities that spread care through artistic mediums — one of which is Milk + Bookies: a nonprofit organization that instills the love of literature to youth. Working with public schools, Milk + Bookies, aids in increasing literacy to young children, and offers donors the opportunity to donate money and books.
One of the lesser known celebrities in the list, head chef and Vail restaurateur who was runner up on Bravo’s Top Chef (Season 7). Liken, a lover of gardner and farm to table cuisine, launched a gardening initiative for kids called Sowing Seeds. Though not necessarily considered an artistic medium, many landscape architects would disagree. Through her nonprofit she founded, Sowing Seeds emphasizing the importance of nutrition, agriculture, and sustainability, the pilot program teaches kids of Brush Creek Elementary School in Eagle, CO—how to grow and sell their produce at the farmer’s market.
Sir Paul McCartney
Sir Paul McCartney, a Beatle and lead for the band Wings, has involvement in over 40 charities, including ones associated with the arts. MusiCares, an organization many musicians and celebrities donate to, gives crucial financial, medical and housing care to musicians who are in desperate need of aid. The nonprofit Grammy.org offers help in placing homeless music veterans to get them on their feet during hardships.
There are countless celebrities who use their money, prestige and philanthropy to donate to hundreds of charities. These are just five examples of the wonderful pool of famous stars who give back.
Recently, a philanthropist in Inglewood, Canada truly took the importance of a “room with a view” to heart. When a development company moved in on Jim Hill’s Inglewood art gallery, attempting to buy a lot that would block the gallery’s west-facing view, he did what any art lover with the means would: he bought the entire proposed lot.
The Esker Foundation Contemporary Art Gallery was founded by Hill and his wife in 2012, and is considered one of Calgary’s most important art spaces. The view from the gallery’s window (called “the Lantern”) has been considered a “million dollar view”, which proved true at the $1.5 million price tag he paid to secure his gallery’s perspective.
Upon purchasing the lot, the construction of the proposed 4-storey retail/office space at 923 9th Avenue SE was halted — permanently. The complex was scheduled for completion this year built by Slokker, which was already advertising future retail and office space for lease when Hill intervened.
“I knew that lot would be developed, but it never really occurred to me they’d build something four storeys high on it […],” said the gallery owner.
Hill added that while he might develop the lot someday, for now, he plans to establish a sculpture garden — something he always envisioned as being part of the Esker gallery.
“It was a combination of a sort of selfish reason — wanting to preserve the view to the downtown — but also the thinking that we could use it as an outdoor extension of the art we have indoors,” he said.
Shortly after buying the lot, Calgary artist Dick Averns’ piece, Water Meter was the outdoor continuation of Averns’ exhibit inside the gallery, and there is consideration that the outdoor lot continue as revolving exhibition of a single piece. For now, Esker still plans to landscape and create a sculpture garden as a green space for Inglewood’s main street, but there’s no ETA as of now.
Inglewood Council member Gian-Carolo Carra said the neighborhood desperately needs residential space and hopes Hill will consider that sometime in the future. However, he doesn’t fault Hill for putting a stop to the proposed Slokker building due to his love of arts.
“He’s been a massive patron of the arts and a benefactor for the area,” said Carra. “I can totally understand, having invested so much and having the wherewithal to do it, why he would say, ‘I want to make sure this is perfect.’ “It’s an interesting and charming story.”
Regardless of what will become of the lot going forward, the story of the art lover who stopped the construction of a commercial building to save a window with a view will go down in Inglewood’s history.
Photo credit Calgary Herald
8-year old grows hair for cancer victims
Two years ago, 8-year old Christian McPhilamy decided to grow his hair but not as a style choice. Upon seeing a St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital commercial about children with cancer, he decided he wanted to help. It was that desire that was the impetus for him to grow out his hair.
Though chastised by fellow children because of waist-length hair, Christian trudged on never once asking to get it cut. With this tenacity, he eventually reached his goal. With the two years of growth, he was able to donate 40 inches of his hair to Children With Hair Loss, the nonprofit founded in 2000 that procures wigs and hair for children who’ve lost theirs from radiation and chemotherapy, or other conditions and illnesses.
Though he may not think of himself as a hero, his mother, Deeana Thomas thinks he is, “He has endured an awful lot of criticism, and yes even bullying, throughout this time,” Thomas posted on Facebook. “From his peers calling him a girl to even coaches and family friends telling him he should cut it or offering him money to.”
After seeing an ad for hair donations while researching St. Jude’s, Christian’s mom explained that children with cancer often lose their hair due to treatment. It was then that Christian made up his mind to do his part.
The 8-year old Floridian donated his hair this week. According to Christian, it feels good to have short hair again though there are no regrets about what it took to reach this accomplishment.
It is possible that humanitarians are born not made, and this story seems to confirm that theory. For Christian, it might be an innate altruism. For an adult, it should be our obligation to become invested in the communities around us that need help. If an 8-year old can, why can’t we?