Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Corporations and Charity

I was perusing the Times and came across a story about the effects that Altria pulling out of NYC is having on local artists and art centers.

Karen Brooks Hopkins, president of the Brooklyn Academy of Music, said she was initially stunned when she learned that Altria would discontinue its funding, which included a $375,000 donation last year.

The company has been the primary sponsor of the academy’s Next Wave Festival since its inception in 1983, and Ms. Hopkins and her staff are seeking new sponsors.

“They did it because they saw the vision. They got it,” she said. “It’s hard to get money for the arts. It’s even harder the more experimental and unusual the program.”

This seems strange to me for a few reasons. Firstly, I'm not really sure why an artist would want to be reliant on donations from a corporation. I'll admit the money is readily available, but it doesn't really seem sustainable. When you have donations from individual doners, people feel a connection with the program that they're sponsoring. A corporation can disappear, as in this story, or just decide that its money is better spend somewhere else, and then you have a large hole in your budget.

From the other side, I'm not sure what Altria's been getting. Some positive press and mindshare no doubt, but I'm not sure why it should be the job of a tobacco company to "see the vision" when it comes to an arts program.

But they both do it. I feel as if I must be missing something.

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