Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Brother, Can You Spare A Private Endowment?

R. Allen Stanford, before he almost bankrupted eight Caribbean nations

Ugh. Not only is the national hate-on for Bernie Madoff and corrupt New York about to refocus itself on Houston and R. Allen Stanford, but arts orgs across the south are gonna get punched in the mouth. For once, I am very glad that the rich's blindness to art in Houston prevented Stanford from doling out dollar bills to DWorks, Lawndale or the Art League. The MFAH did get burned though. Artnews takes it from HERE:


Another week, another giant scandal shaking the U.S. financial system -- and possibly the art world.

This time out, the heat is on Houston financier R. Allen Stanford -- Forbes’ 205th richest man in 2008 -- who the Securities and Exchange Commission is charging with "a fraud of shocking magnitude that has spread its tentacles throughout the world," connected to his $50-billion Stanford Financial Group. For his part, Stanford has been quoted as saying that the charges are the result of "disgruntled former employees."

And here’s the best part -- in the art world, Stanford’s charitable foundation has recently been promoting something called the Stanford Financial Excellence in the Arts (SFEA) Award, designed "to recognize and reward local arts organizations that demonstrate exemplary fiscal management of their resources." The brief for this self-styled "Right-Brain Award for a Left-Brain World" crows that "by rewarding fiscal responsibility, it encourages and develops arts organizations' ability to manage their finances in order to mirror healthy, for-profit corporations, making for a better bottom-line for the nonprofits." Let’s just hope none of the recipients took that "mirroring" advice too literally.

Last year, Stanford partnered with the local Dallas arts council to dole out $45,000 in unrestricted SFEA grants. The Dallas Museum of Art took the top $20,000 honor at a ceremony on Nov. 13, 2008, with awards designed by area glass artist Diana Chase.

In Charlotte, N.C., the Carolina Raptor Center, a nature preserve, beat out the McColl Center for Visual Art and the Mint Museum for 2008’s top $20,000 award.

In Florida, Stanford handed out $20,000 to the Sarasota Orchestra in December, as well as modest grants of $2,500 to the Ringling College of Art and Design and Ringling student Kayla Carlson.

The Stanford Group’s arts activities, however, go considerably beyond the SFEA award.

Stanford Financial Group has a partnership with the Museum of Contemporary Art, North Miami, where it sponsors the "International Collectors’ Circle" and annual "POP" fundraiser. Stanford was also key sponsor of the Miami Art Museum’s exhibition "Work in Progress."

Another long-time Stanford Financial beneficiary is the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, where the firm was behind "Constructing a Poetic Universe," a showcase of Latin American art collected by tire magnate Bruce Halle and his wife Diane.