The Fine Art of Giving Back: Dick DeVos and Charity

Charitable giving is itself an art. The expansion of the John F. Kennedy Center for Performing Arts is the latest example.

The project reached its fundraising goal so quickly that the target has now been raised by $50 million. The funds will go towards an expansion of the center itself, but also a riverfront pavilion. A pedestrian bridge will link the two. The enhancements to the center will include three new pavilions, spaces for education and rehearsal, as well as offices and dining space. The initial fundraising goal was $125 million. By September, 2015, the total raised had topped $135.9 million. A good portion was contributed by the co-founder of the Carlyle Group, David Rubenstien. His $50M donation outstripped other enormous donations from The Boeing Company, Jacqueline Mars, and Stephen and Christine Schwarzman.

Among other contributions was a sizable check from Dick and Betsy DeVos.

Since its start in 1989, the Dick and Betsy DeVos Foundation has consistently supported education, community, the arts, justice, and leadership in Western Michigan and beyond. These causes have long been passions for the DeVos family. But art has taken on a special significance.

Since 2009, the DeVos foundation has sponsored the ArtPrize festival in Grand Rapids, Michigan. The exhibition runs 19 days and covers over three square miles in middle of the city. Public votes count towards the award of a $200,000 grand prize. In 2013, ArtPrize hosted over 400,000 visitors, giving thousands of artists, unknown and otherwise, the chance to display their works to an enthusiastic audience.

Then, there’s the West Michigan Aviation Academy. Since 2010 it’s been a center of inquiry for those interested not only in aviation, but also science, engineering, technology, and math. Students get to see ideas and principles become real in a way that itself resembles art.

I can’t pass up an opportunity to celebrate Dick DeVos‘ dedication to the contributions of his fellow Dutch-Americans. The DeVos foundation supports the New Netherlands Institute in New York, where artists like Walt Whitman, Herman Melville, and even Eddie Van Halen are honored for their contributions and Dutch heritage.

Thus, the act of giving is itself an art. Philanthropy requires intense scrutiny and discernment if the contribution is to have any lasting, positive effect. A charitable gift is an idea made real in some way. It only makes sense DeVos would support the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts.

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