Endowed gifts fund College arts projects

by Rebecca Asoulin | 5/4/14 5:07pm

by Jin Lee / The Dartmouth

The Hopkins Center and the Hood Museum have much in common. Physically, the two buildings share a connecting hallway, while abstractly, they share the goal of promoting education in the arts on campus. Both also would not exist if not for two large founding gifts, and gift giving remains a significant source of funds for both the Hop and Hood.

In 1985, the Hood opened due in large part to a gift from long-time College trustee and member of the Class of 1918, Harvey Hood. In 1962, the Hop opened after a capital gift from the Nelson Rockefeller family. Nelson Rockefeller was a member of the Class of 1930.

“The founding impulse of the Hop is that the arts is an essential part of the liberal arts education,” Hop director Jeffrey James said. “We want there to be incredible opportunities for students to make, perform and experience art.”

Donors to the Hop can receive preferred season ticketing, arts trips and lunch with the director, and Hood members gain free admission or discounts at the Hood and some museums nationwide. While gifts to the Hop can be claimed as tax deductible up to $2,500, all donations to the Hood can be claimed as such.


Funding at the Hop and Hood

Hood Museum deputy director Juliette Bianco and James said the funds that the Hop and the Hood receive from endowments and gifts are crucial to the institutions’ operations. James and Bianco declined, however, to give exact breakdowns of funding for each institution.

At the Hop, James said money raised from endowments and gifts goes toward fostering an ability to learn while doing, reflecting College President Phil Hanlon’s new push for experiential learning.

The Hood’s core mission is to make the museum “an ideal learning environment,” Bianco said. The museum does so, she said, through their exhibitions and publications program, teaching and acquisitions.

“With donors, the conversation is always around how their contribution can support our core mission,” Bianco said. “That’s sort of the lens through which we look at any potential gift or endowment.”

Donors can fund an endowment, money that returns a yield every year, or provide a money gift for current use, an outright sum donated for a specific purpose.

The Hood accepts donated works of art or loans from a donor’s collection, and the Hop receives funds from corporate sponsors. Both institutions also have membership programs that require an annual fee to partake.

“The driving point for any gift from Dartmouth’s point of view is that it addresses a priority that the institution has,” James said. “Most of the time you can find a territory that addresses a donor’s passion but also speaks to what we really need.”

Donors include alumni, parents, community members, government sources and foundations. In the next few years, both institutions will focus on raising capital to expand and renovate their buildings to better accommodate their programs’ current needs, James said.


Gift giving at the Hop

Donated money funds the Hop’s visiting performing artists series, student ensembles and performances, outreach education programs and student workshops. Money is also used to commission new works, like a piece by the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater group in 2012.

James said the Hop will soon announce a gift from a parent and alumnus that will go toward piloting a new internship program as well.

The Dartmouth College Wind Ensemble’s spring break tour in Costa Rica, for example, was possible due to a combination of money generated from two endowments, current use money raised as part of the Hop’s 50th anniversary last year and College funds, James said. This combination of funding is typical, he said.

“Some of the most impactful experiences for students are the ones that gifts make possible,” James said.

Each year the Hop sells about 125,000 tickets to 100 live performances and 200 film screenings, yet ticket sales cover less than 40 percent of the Hop’s costs. Much of the Hop’s major endowments, gifts and pledges of $500,000 or more, help fund performances by visiting artists. The Hop lists five such named endowments on its website.

Donors to the Hop can also purchase premium seasonal memberships, which provide benefits like preferred seating and arts trips. As of April 2014, the Hop listed eight donors at the highest membership level, which requires an annual gift of $10,000 or more, nine donors at the second highest level of $5,000-$9,999 and 18 donors at the third highest level of $2,500-$4,999.

The Andrew Mellon Foundation provides a multi-year current use grant to the Hop, the same organization that gave two large endowment grants to the Hood Museum in the 1990s and a challenge grant completed in 2000, James said.

The Mellon grant had Dartmouth lead a national research program that tried to find ways to engage students in the arts. Currently in the third year, James said they are trying to implement some of their findings.

“It’s definitely affected the way we’ve done business,” James said. “Sometimes a gift of this sort can actually change the way you do things in good ways.”

Other gifts in fiscal year 2013 included a $100,000 matching gift, money donated on the condition that an equal amount of money will be raised, from the Jane Cook Charitable Trust and $30,000 from the New England Foundation for the Arts.

The Hop also has several funding awards that students can apply for in November to receive money for special projects in the arts. These include the Robert Dance ’77 Fund, the Peter D. Smith Student Initiative Fund, the Lazarus Family Musical Theater Fund and the Class of 1961 Arts Initiative Fund. Awards range from $1,500-$3,900 and support individual or group projects.

Amber Porter ’14 received the Lazarus fund twice in her time at Dartmouth. The fund makes up to $1,700 available for musical theater projects. Porter’s first project was a black box adaptation of “Beauty and the Beast” in spring 2012.

Porter is currently using the fund to put on her senior project, titled “A Century of Lonely Hearts.” Porter said she was inspired to apply for the fund since there is no spring main stage production.

“In both circumstances, the Lazarus grant has been vital in seeing these projects through,” Porter said.

Porter said that the only difficulty to the fund’s structure is that students must apply in November for a spring project. Some students, Porter said, do not have a project idea that early.

For “Beauty and the Beast,” Porter and her production team had to imagine creative solutions to best use their allocated monies, which would not allow for an “elaborate, show-y show” production, she said. They used masks to show when characters were enchanted and also made use of silhouettes.

Porter said working on her current project has taught her how to weave together different adaptations and conceive of new ways to tell stories. She would recommend that other students think ahead and consider applying for future funding.

The Lazarus family is invited to the performance of her current project, Porter said.

“I think of the arts as a huge non-profit industry, [and] it is so important that the people who are giving know where their money is going,” Porter said. “What’s great with performing arts is that you give money and you see that you helped create this solid thing that exists on stage for a period of time.”

James said donors usually have had a direct experience with the Hop’s projects. Often they are parents who see the immediate benefits that these experiences offer to students, he said.

Another new program launched in the winter, the Hop Garage, was made possible due to outside funding. Student interns organize a social performance in the space each Thursday. Rooms in the Hop can turn into a cabaret or jewelry studio, and past entertainment at the Hop Garage has included jazz combos and pub trivia games.

Porter described the Hop as a home for many students interested in the arts, and she said she appreciates having a student-managed social space that tests the “boundaries of what a social space can be and a performance space can be.”

“It’s really big deal for the Hop that they want it to be student-run,” Porter said. “Students have been able to take a lot of risks through presenting student art and curating spaces. It’s a whole other level of risk taking.”


Gifting to the Hood

The Hood uses outside funding to allow students and faculty to engage with the museum’s collection, Bianco said. According to the museum’s 2008-09 annual report, the most recent available, around 50 percent of the museum’s annual operating budget comes from the College, while the other half is raised by the museum’s director or comes from money generated by endowments.

The Hood lists three current and former members who have contributed over $1 million, four who have donated $500,000-$1 million, eight who have donated $250,000-$499,000 and 22 who have donated $100,000-$249,000.

“A Space for Dialogue,” an ongoing program that allows students to curate exhibits from the Hood’s collection, is one of the Hood’s funded ongoing programs. The program has included 81 installations since it began in 2001.

“This flagship student program reverses the role from student as learner to student as an interpreter who then shares their knowledge,” Bianco said.

Jessica Womack ’14, a Hood senior intern, curated the 80th installation, titled “Visions of the Virgin: Manifestation of Mary and Personal Devotion.” Womack has held two funded internships at the Hood, her current position and another supported by the Class of 1959. In her current capacity, Womack helps develop programming meant to engage students with art.

Bianco said named internships create a “palpable connection” between students and donors.

Working as an intern has helped Womack pursue a potential career path in the arts, she said.

“As an art history major, we talk about curating art exhibitions,” Womack said. “It’s incredible to be able to have a hands-on campus learning experience where I can take what I’m learning and apply it in a working and teaching space.”

Xinyue Guo ’14, a senior intern who has previously held a second internship at the Hood, said she was able to meet a member of the Homma family, who funded one of her internships. Their meeting taught her how an appreciation and understanding for art can enhance the way one interacts with other fields, she said.

“Having the Hood and the Hop and having these jobs for students allows us to be as involved as we can with art,” Guo said. “This job helps me grow so much as a student of art history.”

Other recent grants to the Hood include one for $150,000 from the Institute of Museum and Library Services to digitize the Hood’s complete Native American art collection. The Manton Family Foundation gave a grant for the continued preservation and interpretation of the Orozco murals, and an endowed gift from the Mellon Foundation supports projects that integrate the museum’s collections with the classroom.

The Hood Museum uses the endowment from Mellon grants to offer faculty one- and two-week residencies to research the Hood collections and determine which resources they could use as teaching aids in the classroom. Anthropology professor Sienna Craig was awarded a Mellon residency during the 2012-13 academic year and combed the museum’s collection for objects relevant to a course she was teaching on the anthropology of Tibet and the Himalayas, she said.

“I’ve always felt that art of different mediums can help bring home and clarify aspects of the human experience that just reading text,” Craig said. “It’s a chance for the students and for me to engage in other modes of analysis and creativity.”

Bianco said that this intimate engagement with thousands of works from the collection happens in the Hood’s Bernstein Study-Storage Center. The museum has had 91 class visits to the space during the past year, a total of about 5,000 non-unique students, she said.


Future projects

The Hop and Hood are continually building and fostering donor relationships to fund present operations and provide new projects in the future.

Looking forward, James said the Hop is working to fund a commission for the wind ensemble as well as a main stage production of “Romeo and Juliet.”

Bianco said that the Hood will borrow a major exhibition currently on view at the Brooklyn Museum titled “Witness: Art and Civil Rights in the ’60s,” for view at the Hood in the fall. The exhibition will feature more than 100 works from artists who feel that their work played into the civil rights movement. The fall exhibition has been made available through gift and endowment money.

As part of her internship at the Hood, Womack said she traveled to Brooklyn to see the current exhibit and participate in layout meetings for the Hood’s upcoming show. She is currently working on the audio tour guide for the fall exhibit.

“This show is ridiculously large,” Womack said. “It’s amazing to be able to contribute to figuring out all those different components, like seeing what pieces communicate best with one another.”