The arts sector in Arizona is getting a big infusion of cash, thanks to recent grants totaling more than $32 million. The grants are part of a $123 million initiative by the Virginia G. Piper Charitable Trust, which announced gifts to 71 grantees on September 13.
“We’ve seen the way so many nonprofits are working to meet the community’s needs during difficult times,” says Mary Jane Rynd, president and CEO for the trust, which has been awarding grants since 2000 to support key sectors. “We wanted to provide additional support for those efforts.”
This is the trust’s largest single-day philanthropic initiative to date. They’re calling it Now is the Moment, taking inspiration from their namesake, who called charitable giving “a moment-to-moment dignified responsibility of a truly high calling.”
Twenty-two arts and cultural groups will receive a total of $32,750,000. The awards range in size from $100,000 to $7.5 million. Ten of these 22 nonprofits are receiving $1 million or more. The trust is leaving it up to recipients to publicly disclose the amounts of their awards.
Organizations receiving larger gifts include Arizona Opera and Ballet Arizona, which will each get $2.5 million. Heard Museum will get $3 million and Phoenix Art Museum will get $4 million. The Phoenix Symphony was awarded $7.5 million.
Several groups, including Arizona Opera and Cultural Coalition, which was awarded $100,000, note that these are the largest grants they’ve ever received.
“We are deeply grateful for the outstanding generosity of Virginia G. Piper Charitable Trust,” says Mark Koenig, the Interim Sybil Harrington Director and CEO of Phoenix Art Museum. “This latest gift, one of the largest one-time grants the museum has received in our history, further cements Piper Trust’s resolute commitment to the arts in our region and provides truly transformative support for the museum following the single most challenging year in our 60-year history.”
Piper Trust awarded Now is the Moment grants in several additional sectors, including health and human services, education and academic enhancement, health care and medical research, and religious organizations.
So far, the recipients have been given large-scale mock-up checks; the actual funds will follow.
“We just really want these organizations to have peace of mind and not live hand to hand,” says Rynd. “For some, this will help to keep the doors open, but others will be able to increase the number of people that they serve or implement creative projects that they’ve had to postpone.”
Rynd credits board members with conceiving the idea after seeing increasing needs in the community amid Covid-19. “They were just really struck by the dislocations of people struggling, and the fact that people with money were making a good return on their investment.”
Board members suggested possible recipients, then agreed on a final list of 71 grantees.
“I called the leaders of the organizations and told them a member of our board wanted to meet with them for a few minutes to thank them for the work that they’re doing,” explains Rynd. “We surprised them with awards during the meetings, and I don’t think any of them suspected what we were up to.”
Rynd recalls seeing tears, and says the trust is already getting calls from recipients about the ways they plan to make a difference using the unexpected gifts. “One told me they’re definitely going to pay it forward.”
Phoenix New Times reached out to all 22 organizations, which are listed below. Grant amounts are included for those that shared their information as of this writing.
Act One ($250,000)
Arizona Opera ($2.5 million)
Arizona State University Foundation ($7.1 million for arts and education)
Arizona Theatre Company ($1 million)
Ballet Arizona ($2.5 million)
Black Theatre Troupe
CALA Alliance ($250,000)
Children’s Museum of Phoenix
Cultural Coalition ($100,000)
Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation ($1 million)
Free Arts for Abused Children of Arizona
Heard Museum ($3 million)
Jazz in Arizona ($200,000)
Phoenix Art Museum ($4 million)
The Phoenix Symphony ($7.5 million)
Valley Youth Theatre
Western Spirit: Scottsdale’s Museum of the West
Rather than requiring a specific reporting structure, the trust will reach out periodically to see how the funds are being utilized and affecting the community. The grants are unrestricted, which means they can be used for myriad purposes from general operations to launching new programs.
Other Piper Trust grant programs won’t be affected by this initiative, according to Rynd.
As nonprofits are making decisions about how to spend their unexpected windfalls, Rynd will be thinking about Virginia G. Piper’s passion for arts and culture. “She really believed and experienced the ways that coming together in an art space or for a performance lifts everybody’s spirits.”