Giving and the Arts

Americans support the arts and use them for the common good in many ways. Artists have given their time, talent, and resources to causes for the benefit of others. Their contributions have complemented philanthropy for culture and the arts, and givers have long appreciated the power of the arts to advance their causes.

Kermit puppet, 1970

Gift of Jim Henson Productions (through Leslee Asch)

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Sesame Street has used puppetry and other arts to educate young children. Individual Americans, foundations, corporations, and federal, state, and local governments have supported the creation of public television, where Sesame Street began in 1969.

Christ Healing the Sick in the Temple, Benjamin West, 1817, reproduction

Christ Healing the Sick in the Temple, Benjamin West, 1817, reproduction

Courtesy of Pennsylvania Hospital, photograph by Robert Negroni

Benjamin West created this painting as a gift for Pennsylvania Hospital. The hospital exhibited the painting for paying visitors. As one of the first art shows in the United States, the display helped nurture Americans’ interest in art.

Reproduction of pages from James Smithson’s will, dated October 23, 1826

Reproduction of pages from James Smithson’s will, dated October 23, 1826

Courtesy of the Smithsonian Institution Archives

The Smithsonian is the largest cultural organization in the United States and includes this museum. James Smithson, a British scientist, bequeathed his fortune to “found at Washington . . . an Establishment for the increase and diffusion of knowledge.” Along with funding from taxpayers, Americans sustain the Smithsonian with gifts of time, money, objects, and professional expertise.

Joseph Hirshhorn’s adding machine, 1927

Transfer from Smithsonian Institution Libraries, Library, Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden

Starting in the late 19th century, wealthy Americans amassed fortunes large enough to play leading roles in creating and sustaining cultural institutions. Joseph Hirshhorn, a Latvian Jewish immigrant and successful businessman, gave the Smithsonian his art collection and funded construction of the museum that houses it today.

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Costume worn by Lin-Manuel Miranda playing Alexander Hamilton, Around 2015

Costume worn by Lin-Manuel Miranda playing Alexander Hamilton, Around 2015

Gift of Adventureland LLC

Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Hamilton: An American Musical highlights the orphan asylum founded by Eliza Hamilton and others in 1806. Their endeavor became the child welfare agency known as Graham Windham, which the cast now supports.

Ballet shoes worn by Misty Copeland, around 2015

A gift from Misty Copeland

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Misty Copeland meeting students in the American Ballet Theatre’s Project Plié Bridge Class

Misty Copeland meeting students in the American Ballet Theatre’s Project Plié Bridge Class

Courtesy of American Ballet Theatre
Photograph by Rosalie O’Connor
 
Misty Copeland, prima ballerina from the American Ballet Theatre, mentors aspiring ballerinas from underrepresented communities. With support from foundations and businesses, the American Ballet Theatre created Project Plié in an effort to diversify ballet companies.

Through benefit concerts, amateur and professional musicians have supported a wide range of causes while also fostering appreciation for music.

Sting’s Fender Stratocaster, 1978

Gift of Gordon Sumner (a.k.a. Sting)
 
Rock star Sting organizes and performs at benefit concerts for such causes as human rights and rainforest conservation. He joins many American celebrities in contributing their talent and star power for causes.
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March of Dimes promotional photograph of Louis Armstrong at a fund-raiser, around 1959

March of Dimes promotional photograph of Louis Armstrong at a fund-raiser, around 1959

Courtesy of March of Dimes

Farm Aid Program, 1985

Farm Aid Program, 1985

Gift of Farm Aid

Sweet Honey in the Rock Program, 1995

Sweet Honey in the Rock Program, 1995

Gift of Sweet Honey in the Rock (through Bernice Johnson Reagon)