Why Arts?

In the face of all our societal needs, why do people need the arts in their lives?
Gary Steuer

April 15, 2024

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Photo Credit Victor of Valencia
"So, we have now, through this shift, become the leading Foundation supporter of the arts in Denver..." — Gary Steuer

Back in 2011-12 the Bonfils-Stanton Foundation went through a process of evaluating its grantmaking, in the context of the local environment – both the community needs, and how philanthropic resources were being deployed. Up until this point the Foundation had a relatively broad scope in its giving, encompassing science and medicine, human services, education, and the arts.

In our assessment it became clear that – particularly in the wake of the 2008 recession funding was increasingly being targeted to areas other than the arts, that the arts were seen (in the words of one foundation leader I spoke with) as a “nice to have” not a “need to have.” At the same time, we saw a growing and vibrant cultural sector, which was playing a major role in fostering the quality of life in our community for all our residents.

As a result, in 2012/13 the Foundation’s trustees made the decision to focus our grantmaking entirely on art and culture, and began stepping down our support of non-arts groups, and at the same time increasing our support within the arts. Since the 2015-16 year, we have directed 100% of our grantmaking resources towards either creative grants or leadership initiatives. We are committed to elevating the arts to new heights and actively voicing our stand on key issues, all in the quest to create a vibrant city.

So, we have now, through this shift, become the leading Foundation supporter of the arts in Denver, in terms of number of organizations supported, and for many of the groups we support we are now their largest source of institutional support (with the exception of the Scientific and Cultural Facilities District funding).

By default, we are also happy to be a spokesperson and opinion leader on the value of arts in our community.

We have realized that in making this shift – and enhancing our communications capacity through our new website, social media, Vibrant City Newsletter, etc. – we will always be answering a crucial question: Why Arts? Why are the arts are so important? In the face of all our societal needs, why do people need the arts in their lives?

Photo by Victor of Valencia: Danielle SeeWalker Event

In embarking on answering these questions for you we will continue to think deeply about these issues, research local and national data and examples, and share our findings.  We have dedicated the Why Arts? area of our website to make an ongoing case for the arts. This page is not encyclopedic or comprehensive – there are reasons that in the interest of brevity, we have chosen not to include. And we do not mean to diminish the truly powerful, human, spiritual ability of the arts to enlighten, inspire and inform. This is at the core of why we do what we do, and it is precisely this power that fuels the effectiveness of the arts in achieving more “instrumental” outcomes of economic impact or neighborhood vibrancy.

So please visit the Why Arts? area of our website and let us know what you think. What do the arts mean to you?

Gary Steuer
President and CEO

Published:
April 15, 2024
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