Darren Walker, president of the Ford Foundation spoke about the state of nonprofit funding today in an interview with artsnet News. After recent high-profile controversies involving nonprofit organizations and the political views of their board members and wealthy donors, many nonprofit organizations find themselves between a rock and a hard place.
For example, after it was revealed that real estate developer and Shed board member Stephen Ross was hosting a private fundraiser to support President Trump’s re-election campaign, two artists who collaborated on a project on view at the Shed (the new performing arts center at Hudson Yards in New York) withdrew their work in protest of the event. As another example, several artists withdrew their work from the Whitney Biennial because of the presence of Warren Kanders, CEO of military supplier Safariland, on its board of directors. It was reports that Safariland’s tear-gas grenades had been used against migrants at the United States-Mexico border that sparked the protests.
Unfortunately, some people have framed having a diverse board as oppositional to having a wealthy board. These are one-dimensional ideas. I’m simply saying that you can have both, and you should have both. It would be a grave error to demonize wealthy people. That is something that I find regrettable about the discourse around the Whitney board, around this whole controversy.