Where could my money go so that it would make a difference?” That’s a question Eli Broad asks himself a lot. When he and his wife, Edythe, won the 2013 Simon Prize he funneled the $250,000 award to the Ramón Cortines High School for the Visual and Performing Arts in downtown Los Angeles. Illustrating the modern reality that personal involvement in solving problems is often as important to good philanthropy as financial gifts, Broad had worked for more than a decade, wading through the city’s educational bureaucracy, to get the school opened in 2009. New York City, he reasoned, had LaGuardia High School and Washington, D.C., had the Duke Ellington School. Where was the institution that would nurture the young performing and visual artists of Los Angeles? The school, which now serves over a thousand students in grades 9-12, has been able to offer more public programs and exhibitions thanks to the Broads’ latest gift.
Support for this school is only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the Broads’ patronage of the arts. In 2015, they will open a new museum in Los Angeles that will house more than 2,000 works they have collected themselves, one of the most significant assemblages of modern art in the world. Works by more than 200 artists, including Jeff Koons, Jasper Johns, Andy Warhol, Barbara Kruger, and Roy Lichtenstein, will be available to the viewing public for free. As the opening approaches, the Broads have offered a series of art talks to the public. In February, 1,900 people attended a conversation between Koons and filmmaker John Waters. “We may have set a record for the number of people who attended an art lecture,” Broad jests.
Having both grown up in Michigan, the Broads have also given $33 million (including a $5 million gift this spring) for an art museum at Michigan State University with a special emphasis on contemporary international artists and the historical context for their artworks. The museum has seen 125,000 visitors for 32 different exhibitions since opening in 2012. Broad notes that it has brought people to the university who hadn’t been there in years.