Doris Duke Foundation Invests in New Artists

  • Arts & Culture
  • 2001

The Doris Duke Charitable Foundation has been a groundbreaker in the growing field of direct philanthropic support to artists—ranging from open-ended gifts to commissioning of specific works. Founded in 1996 in large part to improve the quality of people’s lives through arts and culture, DDCF has already given more than $218 million to the arts, and has made two major investments in the lives of performing artists.

The first, in partnership with the Surdna Foundation, began in 2001. The idea was to pair budding performers with more experienced ones in a long-term mentorship program. After conducting research to establish the structure of the program, the Talented Students in the Arts Initiative invited applications from performing-arts schools that allowed aspiring artists to work with professionals. The applications required the institutions to demonstrate program excellence, matching funding, and a commitment to nurturing new artists.

In the first year, four arts high schools and five training institutions received grants totaling between $1 million and $1.6 million. All told, the program disbursed about $16 million in three- to five-year commitments, and strengthened programs like the Jacob’s Pillow Dance Festival in New England and the Cleveland School for the Arts. (The latter, for example, was able to send 20 more students to camps and internships with established professionals each year.)

Ten years after the start of the Talented Students in the Arts Initiative, Duke Foundation president Ed Henry announced a second kind of investment in performing-arts talent. Over 10 years, $50 million would be allocated to provide multiyear fellowships of up to $275,000 to performing artists in jazz, theater, and contemporary dance. These grants represented the largest cash allocations to performing artists in history, and would allow the foundation to support up to 200 artists. The fellowships would be initiated by an anonymous peer-review panel—no applications would be accepted—and they would be an investment in the artist and his work, not a grant to create a specific project. The foundation collaborated on this project with the Creative Capital Foundation, which itself has been a pioneer in venture-philanthropy for artists since its founding in 1999. The first Doris Duke Artists were announced in 2012, the centennial of Duke’s birth.