The paper is being presented todayWednesday at the annual conference of Seattle-based national org Grantmakers in the Arts (held in San Francisco; today's featured speaker is Linda Ronstadt), where I wonder whether it will make waves or just be shrugged off over some white-tablecloth, keynote-luncheon salmonfood.
Now I like a museum, a ballet, an opera, and an orchestra. But this kind of disproportionality reflects the true unhappy history of arts philanthropy—that it is often, back to the days of Andrew Mellon, little more than a case of wealth rewarding wealth. That's why it's so important to note that individual artists almost never receive philanthropic dollars anymore, because almost all of those dollars are sent to institutions (dollars flowing from institution to institution in a kind of structural nepotism).
Yes, philanthropic foundations have lost money like crazy in the last few years. Yes, they have to be sure their money is well-placed. And nobody would advocate that the collapse of large arts organizations would be good for the cultural system as a whole—but likewise, trickle-down economics doesn't seem to be working any better in the arts than it does anywhere else.