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Cultural Capital: Philanthropy in the Arts and Humanities Today

Dumbarton Oaks
May 14, 2020
06:00 PM to 05:00 PM
Fully Booked
CANCELLED | The conference begins on Thursday night with a keynote lecture on cultural and strategic philanthropy by Dr. Stanley Katz. Speakers on Friday will discuss the evolution and impact of philanthropy to arts and humanities organizations.

Out of an abundance of caution in response to the COVID-19 outbreak, Dumbarton Oaks will cancel all public events through the end of May.


Keynote lecture by Stanley Katz
Thursday, May 14, 6:00–7:30 p.m.
Dumbarton Oaks Music Room, 1703 32nd Street NW

Cultural Philanthropy: Can We Measure Its Impact? Should We Have To?

We are living in a utilitarian age in which appeals to abstract principles are suspect. This has created a bias for what is usually called “strategic” philanthropy, or, more descriptively, “effective” philanthropy. The idea is that charitable gifts should make a tangible difference in the near term. The challenge for cultural philanthropy is to show that investments in the arts or other cultural practices matter to the commonweal. On what principles can democracy support cultural philanthropy in an era of climate change, pandemic disease, and rampant economic inequality? Does a democracy need museums? Or symphony orchestras? Or botanical gardens? Or scholarly libraries? If so, why? We should have plenty of things to think about at this conference!

Friday Conference
May 15, 8:30 a.m.–5:00 p.m.
The Oak Room, Fellowship House, 1700 Wisconsin Avenue NW

Despite increasing interest in the role of philanthropy in the 21st century, cultural philanthropy, which specifically supports the arts and humanities, remains a relatively unexplored phenomenon. “Cultural Capital: Philanthropy in the Arts and Humanities Today” will explore the definitions, history, and current debates surrounding cultural philanthropy. How has cultural philanthropy evolved and how does it continue to change? How do donors impact society’s engagement with cultural institutions and the organizations themselves? Speakers will address questions of value, inclusivity, and civic participation that have important implications for the future of arts and humanities in the United States.


  • Jan Ziolkowski, Dumbarton Oaks
  • Yota Batsaki, Dumbarton Oaks


  • Patricia Banks, Mount Holyoke College
  • Kathleen McCarthy, The City University of New York
  • Amanda Moniz, Smithsonian Institution National Museum of American History
  • Francie Ostrower, The University of Texas at Austin
  • Jeffrey Rosen, National Constitution Center
  • Benjamin Soskis, Urban Institute
  • John Wetenhall, The George Washington University Museum and The Textile Museum