Read About the Philanthropic Patrons and Players in the City of Brotherly Love

By Antonia DePace, Kristin Detterline, Joann Greco and Jessica Tzikas | November 21, 2019 | Culture

At the intersection of art and philanthropy sits these Philadelphia notables, working to elevate the city's premiere cultural experiences.

Patron - Dalila Wilson-Scott

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Player - Nancy Ireson

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Whether showcasing the provocative work of contemporary African American artists or bringing to light the intimate domestic scenes of Berthe Morisot, a woman who held her own with the better-known impressionist greats, the Barnes Foundation never rests on its impeccable laurels. Nearly a century after its founding, the museum—famous for its permanent collection of impressionist paintings juxtaposed with African objects, antique hardware and Pennsylvania Dutch furniture—continues to expose us to aspects of modern art we might not otherwise have encountered. And that’s as its founder intended. “Dr. Barnes was all about inclusivity and celebrating diversity,” says Dalila Wilson-Scott, senior vice president, community impact, Comcast Corporation, and president of Comcast NBCUniversal Foundation. “And those values really align with who we are as a company.” No wonder the media giant and the Barnes Foundation have enjoyed such a long and beautiful friendship. “We’ve built a sense of community,” says Nancy Ireson, chief curator and deputy director for collections and exhibitions. For example, one program brings virtual reality headsets to branch libraries to offer kids and adults a taste of what the galleries look like—then covers transit and admission for them and their families so they can actually visit. Should they, and we, arrive later this winter, they’ll discover Marie Cuttoli: The Modern Thread From Miró to Man Ray, an exhibition which introduces the woman who encouraged avant-garde artists of the turn of the 20th century to work in the medium of tapestry. Surprising, indeed.

Patron - David Hoffman

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“I find it very interesting to go to the same ballet multiple times,” says Pennsylvania Ballet co-chair David Hoffman. “When you have different dancers in the same role, they have a different spin... their own talents.” This is the exact reason why he recommends visiting the ballet more than once; he refers to it as his “biggest pitch” to potential audiences. By day, Hoffman is an investment portfolio manager at Brandywine Global. But his roots run deep in the arts: His parents were local artists; he studied art history at Williams College in Massachusetts, and even took a few ballet classes. His eclectic interests have helped him transform the ballet, with co-chair Louise Reed, since he joined the board in 2013—from sourcing funding for commissioned repertoires to being instrumental in hiring Artistic Director Angel Corella. “If you’re going to have a chance to transform something, you do it right,” he says. “And, now, the Pennsylvania Ballet is world-class.”

Player - Angel Corella

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“We all have a little bit of a dancer inside,” says Angel Corella, artistic director at the Pennsylvania Ballet. Corella, himself, is a world-renowned dancer—he has performed for the queens of England and Spain, among other bold-faced notables—and has been transforming the Pennsylvania Ballet since he joined during the 2014-15 season. Classic pieces like Don Quixote, Le Corsaire and next year’s La Bayadère complement the otherwise George Balanchine- influenced company. “Watching them dance... you feel like you’re up there onstage and that you’re a part of what they’re doing,” he says of his prodigies’ talent. Currently, Corella is working on building the company’s international reputation with a potential future tour to countries like China and his native Spain. He was also recently awarded a 2019 Dance Magazine Award. “I’ve done so many incredible things that I never imagined accomplishing,” he says. “I have been so incredibly lucky.”

Player - Carlos Basualdo

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Carlos Basualdo grew up on a ranch in Argentina and was teaching in Venice, Italy, when the Philadelphia Museum of Art came calling in 2005. Today, Basualdo oversees roughly 1,000 works from global artists and is developing a major exhibition dedicated to Jasper Johns in October 2020, with colleague Scott Rothkopf, in his role as Keith L. and Katherine Sachs Senior Curator of Contemporary Art. As the museum’s footprint is changing, thanks to the Frank Gehry-designed Core Project, so, too, is the institution’s approach to contemporary art: The new Contemporary Caucus is focused on using mediums and departments to connect the art form to different collections. “[As a curator], you have to look historically at the present, as if it already happened,” he says. “When an artist makes a work, they’ve made it to be seen. It’s our duty as curators to make that a reality.”

Patron - Ajay Raju

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The Pamela + Ajay Raju Foundation supports the Philadelphia Museum of Art through IntXchange, a philanthropic initiative designed to build Philly’s growing creative community by attracting leading global artists. Consider the far-reaching impact of the “Covering Letter.” In 2016, the foundation gifted the contemporary work by Mumbai’s Jitish Kallat to the museum, where Ajay Raju is a trustee. Its exhibition earned raves from The New York Times, which inspired South Asian artists and collectors to donate 10 pieces to the foundation for the annual Christie’s South Asia auction. The proceeds were used to buy a hands-only kiosk for CPR training that was gifted to the American Heart Association and is now located in the Independence Visitor Center. Says Raju, “It’s a convoluted chain of events, but, in the best possible way, it really demonstrates the reach that a dynamic, gravitational force that an institution like the Art Museum can have across our broader civic and cultural realms.”

Player - Patricia Wilson Aden

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Patricia Wilson Aden, president and CEO of the African American Museum in Philadelphia, works to not only celebrate black art, history and culture, but to bring it to the forefront. In recent years, the museum has been reimagined, with Aden behind the scenes striving to keep their core message strong while adding an array of cultural experiences, including performances and public discourse. Helping her create a new future for AAMP is Carolyn Lowe, who created The Winston & Carolyn Lowe Curatorial Fellowship for Diversity in the Fine Arts, and helps map out successful strategies and plans. “Philanthropists like Carolyn help to fuel AAMP’s ambitions,” says Aden. “They dream along with us [and] understand that realizing the vision requires an array of resources beyond their financial support and are willing to make the necessary investments over the course of our journey.”

Patron - Carolyn Lowe

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With a shared goal to position the African American Museum in Philadelphia as the premier destination for history and fine arts education in the Delaware Valley, Carolyn Lowe has been an important part of the growth at AAMP. “I think I’ve brought an outsider community view of what AAMP is now and can be in the future,” says Lowe. “From my perspective, AAMP is uniquely poised given its location in the historic district to be the premier institution to communicate the black experience.” And it’s not just about museum visitors. “As AAMP looks to the future, we hope to serve as an incubator that nurtures the participation of people of color in the museum profession. Diversifying the profession with skilled, experienced people of color will serve both culturally specific and mainstream museums, as well as the audiences they hope to engage.”



Photography by: Gene Smirnov