Philanthropy and tertiary arts: The future for sustainable art education?

The US is frequently singled out as a leader in philanthropic donation to the arts. In September alone, two major gifts of US$5 million were announced. One by the Getty Institute to support an African American Art History Initiative and another by US Art dealer Jane Lombard to the Vera List Centre for Art and Politics.

Although not at the US investment levels, donations and endowments to major arts companies and to tertiary institutions to support their arts endeavours and education are increasing in Australia, but as the Australian Major Performing Arts Group reports, such giving is volatile and inconsistent across the sector.

As contributors to this edition of NiTRO explain, securing philanthropic generosity takes time to build relationships - a task often left to University Development or Advancement Offices charged with raising support for the entire institution. Yet as our contributors note, it is engagement with those who are immediately connected and passionate about the work that consolidates relationships and, in the majority of tertiary institutions, time for this activity is not factored in to already busy academic workloads. With such limitations, how can the tertiary arts sector as a whole capitalise upon increased prospective donor interest?

Perhaps one option is to guide and train creative arts students themselves how to engage with donors as a way to secure support not only for their artistic education but also their future careers as professional artists. A recent article in the New York Times suggests a shift in donor behaviour that would support such an approach:

“For many years, patrons were supporting institutions or a product, underwriting this ballet or putting their name on a specific show at a museum … Today … donors understand how important it is to support artists - not just the art.”

In this edition of NiTRO:

Bethany Serow (Executive Director Australian Major Performing Arts Group), discusses the recently released report on philanthropic funding for Major Performing Arts companies

Wendy Scaife (QUT) gives us the statistical lowdown on the state of giving in Australia today

Ann Tonks (University of Melbourne and locum CEO for Chunky Move Dance Company) explores the competition between universities and private arts organisations and explores the importance of passion in philanthropic success

Campbell Grey (University of Queensland) shares the preparation, processes and impacts of receiving a major university endowment

Fiona Menzies (CEO, Creative Partnerships Australia) considers gifting from the perspective of a major arts donor

Fiona Salmon (Flinders University) explains the crucial role that University Art Museums play in the gifting process

and Melinda Rackham (University of South Australia) draws upon high profile Australian donations and endowments to explore some of the lessons for tertiary arts philanthropy.

[1] Miller, J. (2017) Suffering for Your Art? Maybe You Need a Patron. The New York Times