24 Feb. 2016 | Comments (0)
As a philanthropy adviser, I am often asked why philanthropy should support the arts, when there are many other urgent and practical causes. I think there is an easy utilitarian equation that is often formed around philanthropy (see, for example, this Giving Thoughts Q&A with Peter Singer regarding “effective altruism”). In instances where benefits and measures are immediate and observable in the short term, and cause and effect can be even superficially linked, it is effortless to argue that this sort of giving is the most “important” or “valuable” philanthropy. But immediate benefits are not the same as impact.
I believe that Philanthropy can make its greatest impact when it supports art for art’s sake, because it is supporting something that is crucial to a flourishing and vibrant society. That’s something that many other funders cannot so readily do. Arts’ benefits to society, among others, include:
- It grows people’s imagination. It enhances the creative potential of the human mind, solves problems, and enlivens us all.
- It helps us see ourselves and understand ourselves on a deep level, often powerfully without words.
- It makes us more open to questioning and therefore more open to change.
- It stimulates communities and therefore economies.
A long bow, you think? It’s important to understand that sometimes we don't even recognize that artists have influence on our actions.
I believe that providing opportunities for creative expression, and creative practice to grow and reach us all is a philanthropic activity that is beyond desirable and worthwhile—it is essential and vital to our commerce, to our ability to progress, and to our ability to find joy in our existence.
Philanthropy operates best across a long time horizon. In arts philanthropy, time allows funders to patiently anticipate and measure true societal impact. What are your thoughts?