Our arts patrons deserve thanks, not blistering criticism

The Charlotte Ballet company is benefiting from a trend to give larger gifts directly to cultural institutions.
The Charlotte Ballet company is benefiting from a trend to give larger gifts directly to cultural institutions.

From Michael Marsicano, president and CEO of the Foundation for the Carolinas:

It is puzzling that Chris McLeod (May 18 Viewpoint) has criticized generous donors who are working hard to advance greater levels of direct contributions to cultural institutions, even as these donors work together collaboratively.

Giving to the arts has been significant in Charlotte, and our community is grateful for the generosity of many donors. At one time in our history, the growth of our cultural institutions was fueled through the collective giving fund drive of the Arts & Science Council. The fund drive was so successful it became the highest per capita united arts campaign in America. This vehicle enabled us to move further and faster in arts development than was otherwise possible.

More recently, however, arts patrons are developing closer and closer ties to the individual cultural institutions themselves. I believe this trend is beginning to usher in another great wave of giving to the arts. In fact, the Thrive Campaign for the Arts was designed to fast-track the trend. Tens of millions of dollars have been raised from a handful of generous individuals and corporations to fund programs which, among other things, nurture increased giving directly to arts organizations from wider and wider circles of patrons. Also, the effort supports innovative earned income opportunities for cultural groups. In June, the Thrive Fund will announce its second round of grants to several cultural institutions.

There are many ways in which collective giving and direct giving can work in concert to maximize a healthy cultural system. Hugh McColl, the architect of the collective-giving Thrive Campaign, is an exemplar of this emerging trend to give larger gifts directly to cultural institutions for programs. Hugh is giving $1 million to the Charlotte Ballet Company for the creation of a new “Nutcracker” ballet in honor of his wife Jane.

The blistering criticism by Ms. McLeod of arts patrons already moving in the direction of the philanthropic landscape she supports is really quite shocking. Perhaps gratitude and appreciation would have been a better incentive for robust arts patronage.