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Society and Culture

Culture, civic engagement, and art act as threads that weave people together in communities around the globe. Given their deeply personal nature, it is not surprising that these elements of society are funded predominantly by private philanthropy. As Robert Rosenkranz observes, “[Philanthropy] doesn’t have to be politically correct. It’s okay if people get offended, because that’s the nature of private risk-taking decision-making. And I think it’s a part of American vitality.”

The philanthropists we interviewed pursue a wide variety of civic, cultural and arts-oriented passions. Some focus on educating the public on important but unappreciated issues facing society. Their philanthropy helps spark discussion and builds awareness for issues such as government debt and transparency. Other interviewees fund the development of public spaces where communities can come together to collaborate and generate new ideas. Still others support art as an essential window into societal issues, and do their part to ensure their collections prompt discussion and reflection.

Some philanthropists we interviewed believe that preserving one’s faith or culture is paramount. Some preserve artifacts, such as an original copy of the Magna Carta. Others protect languages that are an important expression of ethnic heritage and history from being pushed out by assimilation. Finally, some preserve heritage by building a stronger religious identity in younger generations.

What connects the philanthropists we interviewed who give to civic, cultural and arts-oriented causes is a shared belief in the importance of building a strong future steeped in the lessons of the past.