Quotation of the day

[Cultural funding] may be losing some cachet. It’s not in vogue with the tech billionaires on the West Coast, where Bill Gates famously funds such developing-world causes as greater access to fresh water and vaccinations. Instead of a night at the opera wearing Oscar de la Renta, it’s a week in Malawi sporting khaki safari vests. And younger donors often seem more interested in pursuits like fighting poverty or improving educational opportunities for inner-city kids.

“Tech guys and hedge fund guys would rather develop electric cars and eradicate malaria, and you can’t criticize them for that,” [Michael Gross] says. [He’s a writer who’s chronicled New York high society.] “There is a new model being created, and it doesn’t bode well for traditional cultural philanthropists.”

Or, more to the point, for traditional cultural institutions, including — obviously — the ones we all know in classical music. I think we’re nearing the end of two eras, not just the era when the arts in their traditional form get universal deference, but also the era when wealthy people can be counted on for support.

Which means it’s a new ballgame. Time for classical music to change.

(The quote comes from “It’s a philanthropy thing,” by Miriam Kreinin Souccar, posted on the Crain’s New York Business website on June 27. Rather incoherently, the theme of the piece is that funding the arts is more glamorous than funding hospitals or universities, because you get noticed more, and you get entreé into the top ranks of society. And then comes the passage I quoted, with which the piece shoots itself in the foot. Apparently younger donors don’t buy what Ms. Souccar — along with Reynold Levy, the president of Lincoln Center, who’s prominently quoted — is selling.)

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  1. Tristan says

    That quote gives me bad shivers. How can you even compare saving lives to funding music? The idea that the two are even in competition for funding is deeply sick.

  2. Brian Michael Flanagan says

    Being in a room, speaking with Ren Levy about funding for the art (and we must realize, when we’re talking Lincoln Center, that place is LITERALLY the arts institution for the entire United States) you realize that when he’s asking for money from someone it is on the level of a person’s response being “well, do I give $3 million to malaria fighting, or $3 million to Lincoln Center/The arts/the Harlem Boys Choir/The St. Paul Chamber Orchestra/Starting Artists of Brooklyn?” and knowing that it isn’t going to be a slice of the pie. It is a matter of being passionate about what we believe in–it’s not as though anyone would think, from an emotional standpoint ‘Whew! we were able to take away $3million that would have gone to saving kids in Sudan’ but rather ‘ours is important, too–not more important because of what it does, but is simply important in a way to which we cannot necessarily assign words at the exact moment.”