The Money That Danced Away

USC recently announced a gift from philanthropist Glorya Kaufman to establish a new school of dance.  In a radio interview on KCRW, Kaufman said she had given money for renovation of a dance building at UCLA but the building wasn’t being used as intended.  Excerpt:

…Glorya Kaufman, the philanthropist funding USC’s new dance school, won’t reveal exactly how much money she’s putting into it. “That’s not the important part. The important part is what it’s doing … that’s why I’m withholding that amount,” she says. But whatever the pricetag, it’s large enough to pay for a brand new building and at least part of the faculty hiring and curriculum.

So who is Glorya Kaufman?  She is the widow of Donald Bruce Kaufman, one of the founders of the home building company now known as KB Homes, who has given tens of millions of dollars to dance programs in and outside of L.A in recent years, including a $20 million gift to downtown’s Music Center to host dance companies from around the world. She’s also given $6 million to Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater and $3.5 million to the Juilliard School in New York.  In 1999, Kaufman gave UCLA $18 million to renovate its dance building. She says she’s since been disappointed in UCLA’s dance program — an interdisciplinary one that’s combined with the World Arts and Cultures Department –and in how the school has used the building…

You can read the full transcript of the broadcast and listen to the program at:

First with the Japanese Garden affair and now with dance, UCLA seems to be establishing a reputation with donors of not doing what is promised.  We have noted in prior posts that gifts of human capital such as scholarships, endowed chairs, and research grants are more likely to leave a long-term legacy for donors than grand buildings which can someday be demolished or re-purposed.  Yes, you can try and protect legacies with contracts.  But, as noted, the Japanese Garden affair seems to suggest that putting it in writing doesn’t provide guarantees when it comes to physical facilities.

6 thoughts on “The Money That Danced Away

  1. this is a really important issue, Dan, especially given the resources that are going into snaring donors and their likely ongoing influence over programs their gifts house or support. I also wonder in the UCLA cases about indifference to arts gifts, compared to those in technology. thanks for the coverage.

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