Sometimes Impatiently, New Generation of Arts Patrons Look to the Future

A small and privileged group of young adults is eager to make its mark in the world of arts philanthropy, bringing with them a fresh set of opinions and priorities to the institutions and organizations they support, the New York Times reports.

Though arts institutions have been cultivating individuals in their twenties and thirties for years as a way of ensuring future donations, today's young arts patrons tend to be interested in more than writing checks and attending galas. People like Sarah Arison, the granddaughter of Miami arts patron Lin Arison, and Jennie Tarr Coyne, the daughter of New York City dance supporter Patsy Tarr, are not getting involved in philanthropy because of a lack of career options, as often was the case for previous generations of women, but because they have a genuine interest in continuing the family legacy of arts patronage.

Arison, twenty-three, heads the Arison Arts Foundation and has begun attending board meetings and developing programs for YoungArts and the New World Symphony, both of which were founded by her grandparents. Coyne, at twenty-eight, is the vice president of 2wice Arts Foundation, which her mother founded in 1989, and recently co-chaired a gala for the New York City Ballet.

While families such as the Rockefellers in New York City, the Fields in Chicago, and the Haases in San Francisco have successfully passed the philanthropic torch through successive generations, those families have also learned that bringing young family members onto an established board requires finesse, not least because younger individuals often are interested in changing or expanding the focus of an established institution.

For instance, when two older board members of the Philadelphia-based Tecovas Foundation passed away, the foundation suddenly found itself with four board members — out of a total of seven — under the age of thirty. Not surprisingly, the younger trustees soon were reconsidering the direction of the foundation, which had been established in 1998 by Caroline Bush Emeny, who was 88 at the time, to support the creation of the Globe-News Center for the Performing Arts in Amarillo, Texas.

Four years later the trustees have reached a compromise and agreed to broaden the foundation's grantmaking to the international development field. "We saw the priority of arts funding," said Mary Galeti, the 25-year-old vice chair of the foundation, "but we also saw that there are a lot of other priorities out there. I think a lot of folks are struggling with legacy. They struggle with how we honor those people while doing their own work. The thing about my generation is that we are more directly interested in leaving our mark, building something that will create a lasting impact, whatever that may be."

Kathryn Shattuck. "Arts Patrons, the Next Generation." New York Times 06/29/2008.