“I really didn’t see myself as being a philanthropist but now I really do, I feel like I am philanthropist, it is really sweet. I think it is future-looking to bring this exhibit and share it with the community.” — ROMAINE HARRIS, visitor to The Soul of Philanthropy Reframed and Exhibited
One of the messages composing the chandelier of The Soul of Philanthropy.
Take heed and make this a great week!
“Drawing with light” is both a literal and metaphorical description of photography. The Soul of Philanthropy draws inspiration from that definition as well as from the root meaning of philanthropy: love of what it means to be human. Each a potent concept on its own, combined, these ideas have fueled the design and programming for our exhibition. This exhibit illuminates the human impulse to show compassion, to improve, to progress, to connect and to love. We have composed an experience where the images glow, the stories enlighten and passions are set afire. In reframing portraits of philanthropy, we want viewers to embrace and act on the fact that we each have the capacity to give more and wiser.
From the Artist Statement for the exhibit “Giving Back: The Soul of Philanthropy Reframed and Exhibited”
Photography from the exhibition opening on January 20, 2017, at Concordia University in Portland, Oregon. And brought to the community by MRG Foundation.
— dimeji onafuwa (@casajulie) January 7, 2017
Friday night, The Soul of Philanthropy exhibit opens in Portland, Oregon!
Joy swells and overwhelms me when I think about evolution of an idea I had 10 years ago: to reframe portraits of philanthropy with love.
MRG Foundation is bringing the exhibition to Portland and mounting it at Concordia University. My friend Dimeji Onafuwa, the book designer for Giving Back and graphic designer for The Soul of Philanthropy, now lives in Portland and is this exhibition’s designer. Photos below show Dimeji and his team installing pieces in the library’s gallery space at Concordia.
I’m grateful to all of MRG Foundation’s community supporters, which include: Concordia University, The Collins Foundation, Grantmakers of Oregon and SW Washington, KBOO Community Radio, Meyer Memorial Trust, Moda Health, Multnomah County Cultural Coaltion, The Oregonian Media Group, Spirit Mountain Community Fund, Street Roots and Willamette Valley Development Officers.
For MRG Foundation, presenting The Soul of Philanthropy is an opportunity to share its story publicly and welcome new supporters, donors and friends into its work. MRG believes that “giving is an act of social justice” and recognizes that throughout history communities whose needs are not being met by traditional sources eventually come together and build their own systems.
An aim of bringing the exhibition to Portland is making connections with individuals and groups who are rethinking philanthropy and building the structures and support they need outside of conventional means.
Charles Thomas and me signing books at a recent exhibition of The Soul of Philanthropy at Duke University, which is Charles’ alma mater.
Six years ago, Charles and I began exploring the idea of an museum exhibition on philanthropy, based on the yet released stories and photography of Giving Back: A Tribute to Generations of African American Philanthropists. While it took four years more, before we—in collaboration with NGAAP-Charlotte and Johnson C. Smith University—realized that vision with The Soul of Philanthropy Reframed and Exhibited, we’ll claim releasing seeds of this idea into the ethosphere.
Fast forward to a year ago, just after #GivingTuesday, I was reading this story in The Chronicle of Philanthropy about Bill Gates, Warren Buffett and David Rubenstein funding an endowed curatorship at the Smithsonian National Museum of American History (NMAH) to create a series of exhibitions on the history and future of American philanthropy.
Since the article referenced only billionaire white men (and a few women in the context of being their wives), I wondered whether the NMAH exhibitions would be narrowly framed to present only conventional and predictable pictures of “American philanthropy”. Would traditions of philanthropy in communities of color be told? Would the generosity and impact of people of modest means get included? Would stories of philanthropic women and giving circles be shared?
Quick to climb on my bandwagon, I reached out to learn more about NMAH’s “The Philanthropy Initiative” and to ask questions to ensure a vivid and inclusive and soulful account of philanthropy in America was an aim. Thanks to a network of kind connectors—A’Lelia Bundles, Aviva Kempner and Fath Ruffins—I made some gains.
So on this #GivingTuesday (and hopefully many more to come), I’m traveling to Washington, DC for “The Power of Giving: Philanthropy’s Impact on American Life”—an invitation-only symposium with philanthropists, environmentalists, thought leaders and social innovators to discuss the past, present, and future of American giving. Such programs are slated, annually, for decades to come and the focus this year is “Sustainability and The Environment”. Tuesday’s schedule launches with the opening of the Smithsonian’s first-ever, long-term exhibition GIVING IN AMERICA. We’re in the room, and there’s more to come.
“All the forces in the world are not so powerful as an idea whose time has come.” — Victor Hugo
Below are more photos are from the exhibition of The Soul of Philanthropy Reframed (abridged edition) at Duke University’s Mary Lou Williams Center for Black Culture. Coincidently, the Duke University exhibition was made possible by support from financier David Rubinstein, who chairs Duke’s Board of Trustees and also is one of the funders of the NMAH exhibition.
A: The Soul of Philanthropy! #getyourgiveon
National Coffee Day is the perfect occasion to share a preview glimpse of another item in the new heARTwork product line, which is inspired by The Soul of Philanthropy exhibit! Plus, I’m thrilled that The Soul of Philanthropy, Pop-Up, Abridged Edition will soon open at Duke University’s Mary Lou Williams Center for Black Culture.
My cup runneth over.
Gave away my soul
Giving back to get it back
Given what I know
Poem, Day 16
After returning from the University of Arkansas-Pine Bluff (UAPB), which held a reception and program in conjunction with The Soul of Philanthropy exhibit, today I’m re-posting a featured haiku from my book and exhibit. I wrote this one about five or six years ago on a day I was playing around with various idioms and conjugated forms of the verb to give. The haiku emerged pretty quickly and effortlessly and it perfectly sums up my thoughts, then and now.
The UAPB exhibit in Hathaway-Howard Fine Arts Center was beautiful and filled with students wandering through. Below are some photos from my Arkansas visit. — VF
Portland, Oregon is a city I’ve yet to visit (with the exception of a airport stop en route to Thailand years ago, but that doesn’t really count and I digress). Until recently it was completely off my radar. But over the last few months it’s been like a magnetic field, pulling me and dynamic, creative minds in proximity.
Last year, while working on a project with artist and designer Dimeji Onafuwa (a longtime collaborator with me AND graphic designer of my book and exhibit), he said his family was relocating to Portland. Surprised, I pressed him to tell me about Portland and its appeal. Dimeji spoke fondly of the civic culture, scenery and opportunities. He offered to host me if I ever found myself in the Northwest.
Then weeks later, while working on a project with artist and designer Marcus Kiser (also a longtime collaborator), he was excited to share that his exhibit, Intergalactic Soul, might have a showing in Portland. Marcus’s art exhibit brings together science fiction and social awareness—imagination x consciousness. He asked about my experiences with a touring exhibit, and I shared some vendors and wisdom gained from The Soul of Philanthropy Reframed and Exhibited.
Within days of that conversation, an inquiry about “The Soul of Philanthropy” arrived from Portland’s MRG Foundation—a philanthropic institution working for social change in Oregon communities for 40 years. A few days after that, a second Oregon foundation called about hosting my exhibit in Portland. [cue theme music from The Twilight Zone] “Whoa…what’s up with this reoccurring Portland thing,” I mused.
To cut to the chase: It’s now March and last month Marcus, along with artist Jason Woodberry and performer Quentin Talley (who’s another super-longtime collaborator and whose poetry is featured in The Soul of Philanthropy) traveled to Portland for an “Intergalactic Soul” exhibition at Portland Community College, in conjunction with a panel discussion and performance. “The Soul of Philanthropy,” pop-up edition, will be hosted by MRG Foundation and community partners in August—Black Philanthropy Month. Together, MRG Foundation and The Oregon Community Foundation will then host the comprehensive version of “The Soul of Philanthropy” with community-wide programming for three months, starting in January 2017. Whoa, indeed.
We’re picturing social change.
If you’re in or near Charlotte, come to Wednesday’s AFP-Charlotte panel discussion and holiday social at Levine Museum of the New South, which features The Soul of Philanthropy exhibit.
I’m moderating the 12.09.15 discussion, titled “Fundraising in a Changing World”. Here are the panelists, who are listed in the order of the photos above:
- Christina Theodorou, UNC American Indian Center
- Diane Evia-Lanevi, Tomorrow Fund for Hispanic Students
- Charles Thomas, New Generation of African American Philanthropists
- Diep Tran, Charlotte Circle of Friends a giving circle affiliated with AAPIP
- Steve Bentley, Charlotte Lesbian and Gay Fund
The Denver opening of Giving Back: The Soul of Philanthropy Reframed and Exhibited, over the August 1st weekend, summed up in photography.
Still reframing portraits of philanthropy!
- Flor Blake, The Denver Foundation
- Andrea Murray, A-Dre Productions
- Valaida Fulllwood, The Giving Back Project