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We need patrons, not philanthropists

Dr. Vartan Gregorian is the president of the Carnegie Corporation of New York. Over an illustrious career, he has served as the president of Brown University and the New York Public Library, the provost of the University of Pennsylvania, and a member of the Getty Trust, the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), and several other major institutions of knowledge and culture.

June 5, 2018  |  by Creative Armenia

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CA: Dr. Gregorian, we know the institutions you’ve steered. But what has been your personal connection to the arts?


VG: Books have been the most important for me. Just yesterday, I was packing hundreds of books on modern art and other subjects to send to Armenia.


I believe in this kind of giving.


CA: What kind of reading do you do these days?


VG: I read biography and history mostly, to understand what has been happening in the last century and a half. I read the newspaper, too.


CA: What is your view of Armenian culture? And what do we need?


VG: I hate to tell you this, but what you need is a couple people of major wealth and influence – to begin creating a new class of people invested in the arts. To make art a priority. We need real patrons, not philanthropists.


CA: Please tell us the difference.


VG: A patron is one where the love of the subject matter is calculated. For example, you’ve been collecting textiles. And you go to a museum to establish an entire wing for textiles. You’re a patron. If you’re a philanthropist, you’re donating to the general fund of a university.


You have philanthropy pools. You don’t have patron pools.


CA: So we need more patrons.


VG: Yes. A love of arts.


CA: How has the digital space changed the role of the arts foundation?


VG: You’re on the right track. But watch out. A lot of people have dismissed print and objects by saying that the digital world is enough. But then that becomes your only transmitter of information. And that’s a problem.


CA: But you do see an upside?  


VG: Of course. There is no denying it. There is an entire invisible Armenian culture, which now you are making accessible in the digital age. That’s invaluable.


But you still need a home.

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 Noubar Afeyan, George Clooney, Ruben Vardanyan and Vartan Gregorian

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