The novelist and philanthropist MacKenzie Scott, who has focused on giving away her fortune following her separation from ex-husband Jeff Bezos, the billionaire founder of online retail giant Amazon, recently announced she was donating $2.74bn to 286 organisations. Of these organisations, The Art Newspaper counted that at least 60 involved in the arts and culture, particularly those “from culturally rich regions and identity groups that donors often overlook”, Scott said in a blog post, and many others in the fields of education and racial justice. Most of the institutions received multi-million-dollar grants, and for many the donations are the largest they have ever received.
Among the scores of arts organisation that received funding were El Museo del Barrio in New York, which got $8m; the Dance Theater of Harlem ($10m); the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts in San Francisco ($6m); the Mosaic Network & Fund, a collaborative of 19 foundations investing in New York City-based arts and culture groups led by people of colour ($5m); and the Museum of Chinese in America in New York ($5m); Souls Grown Deep, a foundation advocating on behalf of Black artists from the American South ($2m); United States Artists, a Chicago-based grant-maker ($7m); the National Museum of Mexican Art in Chicago ($8m).
Scott avoided making donations to the big budget institutions and museums that are often favored by mega philanthropists, opting instead to promote local organisations. “Arts and cultural institutions can strengthen communities by transforming spaces, fostering empathy, reflecting community identity, advancing economic mobility, improving academic outcomes, lowering crime rates, and improving mental health,” Scott wrote in a blog post which, in addition to quoting the Sufi mystic poet Rumi, listed all 286 organisations.
All the grants are unrestricted, “because we believe that teams with experience on the front lines of challenges will know best how to put the money to good use, we encouraged them to spend it however they choose,” she continued in the blog post. “Many reported that this trust significantly increased the impact of the gift.”
Scott's gift is "not only an investment in the arts", said Deborah Cullinan, the CEO of the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, in a statement, "It is a game-changing new approach that upends traditional philanthropy and puts resources into the hands of people who are doing the urgent work of now.”
At the time of her 2019 divorce settlement, Scott received roughly 4% of Amazon shares, which was then valued at around $36bn. Thanks to the company’s rising stock prices, her net worth has grown steadily since, and although she has donated more than $8bn throughout the past 11 months, Forbes currently estimates her worth at around $60bn.