Grants, Assumptions, and a No Hours Open Museum  

Grant Funding in Action

When it comes to discussing topics on fundraising in chapter 12, it’s helpful to be able to focus on how grants can make a difference in the arts. For example, the New World Symphony website recently was touting its association with the National Alliance for Audition Support (NAAS). The Mellon Foundation has provided a four-year grant of $1.8 million to NAAS help increase the diversity in American orchestras. The Sphinx Organization will be coordinating the grant initiative. If you have not visited Sphinx’s website, I urge you to check it out. They have a combined vision and mission to transform lives through the power of diversity in the arts. Their array of programs would be wonderful to see made more widely available in America.

Be Careful What You Ask For

Continuing the fundraising theme, a recent posting in the Nonprofit Quarterly about the practice of asking artists to donate their work to charity auctions raises good points about unintended consequences. You should be questioning your assumption that an artist will be more than willing to “donate” a work of art for your gala auction. As the article points out, we fundraisers need to be more mindful of the lost income the artist will likely face by donating their work. One artist indicated she was asked to donate her work to charity 50 times a year! Maybe a quick inventory of the number of fundraising events that auction donated artwork in your community could provide some perspective to students on this topic.

You’re Not Welcome, But Thanks

Lastly, I came across an article about a nonprofit art museum that seems never to be open. Sadly, shaming the Solow Art and Architecture Foundation in the press doesn’t seem to have had any impact on its practices. A parody website has been created complete with a non-accessible museum schedule. Cause IQ has a link with some bare bones information about the Foundation, and you will not find much on GuideStar either. A no access museum that is still able to operate as a tax-exempt nonprofit erodes public trust in the whole sector. This inaccessible museum could be the starting point for a lively class discussion about accountability and public policy.


NWS helps launch National Alliance for Audition Support

by New World Symphony, April 18, 2018

Unprecedented Approach Will Offer a Customized Combination of Mentoring, Audition Preparation, Financial Support, and Audition Preview Showcases for Black and Latinx Musicians

Three national organizations – The Sphinx Organization, New World Symphony, and the League of American Orchestras – have partnered to create the National Alliance for Audition Support (NAAS), a field-wide initiative with the long-term goal of increasing diversity in American orchestras.

Supported by a four-year, $1.8 million grant from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, along with additional financial and programmatic contributions from America’s orchestras, the Alliance will offer a holistic and personalized array of support to Black and Latinx musicians to develop their audition skills, increase their participation in auditions, and ultimately, increase their representation in orchestras.

“This is a critical time for all of us to act with renewed commitment and drive to help our orchestras to be more reflective of their communities and to represent perspectives and talents from Black and Latinx musicians,” said Sphinx President and Artistic Director Afa S. Dworkin. “We are honored to join forces with key industry leaders, humbled to receive and incorporate extensive insight directly from artists, and incredibly grateful to The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation for prioritizing this vital work.”

Link to full posting:


Charity Art Auctions: What’s in It for Artists?

By Amy Costello, Nonprofit Quarterly, April 27, 2018

It’s the season of charity art auctions. Each spring and fall, nonprofits gather donors in ballrooms and galleries across the country and auction off pieces given freely by established and emerging artists. For many nonprofits, it’s their most important fundraising event of the year. But for some artists, who are asked to donate their work many times a year, it can be a burden laden with unintended consequences. 

“There was a high point when I was giving away about 12 works of art a year. That was completely unsustainable,” Brooklyn-based fine artist Ellen Harvey says in our latest podcast. She had to decide to pare down the number of pieces she donates. Now, when she creates art to benefit a cause, she makes a careful calculation. “You need things that are that are small enough, not too expensive, don’t represent too much of your time and yet are actually desirable in some way. You can’t give people rubbish, obviously,” she explains.

But artists often get rubbish back from Uncle Sam. They can’t claim tax deductions on the amount their donations fetch at auction; they may only write off the costs of their materials, which many artists see as unfair.

Link to the full posting:


Developer’s museum off-limits to the public

Sheldon Solow enjoys big tax breaks on his art collection, but taxpayers never get to see it

Joe Anuta, Crain’s New York Business, April 23, 2018

Octogenarian Sheldon Solow recently discussed plans to pass on the family real estate business to his son, Stefan Soloviev. The empire of the Forbes-ranked billionaire includes his namesake office tower, a collection of rental buildings and one of Manhattan’s largest remaining development sites, in Midtown East. But Solow also appears poised to hand off a much less visible family jewel: a nonprofit art museum that receives federal tax breaks despite never being open.

The Solow Art and Architecture Foundation is located on the ground floor of the Solow Building at 9 W. 57th St. and has been registered as a nonprofit with the Internal Revenue Service since 1991. As of 2015, the small museum boasted an enviable collection of artwork by household names including Jean-Michel Basquiat, Sandro Botticelli, Henri Matisse, Joan Miró and Vincent van Gogh. Its mission, according to the most recent public disclosure that included one, is to maintain and display artwork for exhibition to the public. Yet by all accounts, the public is not welcome.

Link to the full posting:

Link to the parody website of the art museum: