Opinion: generational shift among high-impact donors as fewer young people donate to the arts

Posted on: February 14, 2019

“Our national landscape is dotted with fine-arts institutions that exist because of” wealthy individual donors, writes Terry Teachout in Wednesday’s (2/13) Wall Street Journal (subscription required). “Similar tales can be told about any number of museums, concert halls, opera houses and theaters…. America is spiritually richer because of their generosity. Unfortunately, big-ticket philanthropy is in the middle of a protracted sea change that is already having a direct effect on the arts. Thirteen years ago, the Journal reported that younger new-money donors were increasingly choosing to give it not to fine-arts organizations but to humanitarian causes like AIDS research and education reform…. According to the Greater Philadelphia Cultural Alliance GPCA, ‘younger donors’ are ‘shifting away from arts and culture in their philanthropy.’… The consequences of this generational shift in philanthropic priorities are already starting to become painfully apparent.… Especially now that secondary-school arts education has largely been abandoned, I can’t help but wonder how to get Gen-X and millennial donors to take an interest in these groups. Serious donors, after all, tend to show an interest in the fine arts comparatively early.… Unless somebody [figures that out]—soon—we may well have seen the last of the great fine-arts donors.”

Posted February 14, 2019