Art and culture are fundamental elements of a society, essential means by which people shape their identity, explain their experiences and imagine the future. Philanthropy, etymologically, is the love of humanity, in the sense of caring, nourishing, developing, and enhancing what it means to be human. If we mix these two definitions we can clearly see that philanthropy should always go side by side with culture. Cultural philanthropy has been forgotten in the last decades due to the many issues, sometimes more urgent, which require help from charities and philanthropic institutions. Each year in the United States, foundations award about $2.3 billion to the arts, but the distribution of these funds does not reflect the country’s evolving cultural landscape and changing demographics. So more efforts need to be done and cultural institutions need to be more active and involved in their city´s cultural atmosphere. In Chicago, the philanthropic culture is very extensive and can be seen in most levels of society. As for cultural philanthropy, there are 4 institutions in Chicago that stand out from the rest.
The Chicago Botanic Garden is more than just a display of beautiful flowers and exotic plants. They are focused on promoting a greener life and a sustainable culture by designing educational courses on many topics and interests. The Garden’s mission is to cultivate the power of plants to sustain and enrich life. To contribute to society they have designed programs such as The Adult Program, the Youth and Family Programs, The Teacher and Student programs for schools, wellness and fitness, the Lenhardt Library, Horticultural Therapy courses and activities and Urban Agriculture programs. One of the most famous programs in the Urban Agriculture section is the Windy City Harvest which is The Chicago Botanic Garden’s urban agriculture program to spread education and knowledge about jobs, local food systems, healthier communities, and how to bring together the community around these initiatives and help them advance towards a greener economy. Also, The Regenstein Foundation Learning Campus, which is due to open in July 2016, will educate students from preschool through doctorate level in everything from horticulture to sustainability.
The Chicago Public Library Foundation has supported the library since 1986 with new material and updated books to enlarge the collections and programs at the library. They have programs for children education such as Chicago Reads Together an early literacy initiative focusing on the critical ages 0-5,and Cuentos Aquí which is a program dedicated to increase the literacy and school readiness of Hispanic children ages 0-5 in the greater Pilsen community; the CyberNavigators program that helps any person get in contact with the information via internet; the Teacher in the Library program that helps students with after school homework providing 85,296 hours of free homework help to Chicago kids during the 2014–15 school year; and the YOUmedia program which allows kids to go and hang out at a place where they can create digital products such as poetry, design, music and video games and community partners guide them to creative self-interpretation and expression through new digital skills.
The Chicago Shakespeare Theater is the biggest employer for Chicago actors. At the theater they believe that Shakespeare speaks to everyone and they give back to the community with educational programs that support the work of English teachers in schools across the city and the country. They also offer matinee performances for students across the Midwest in 400 schools so they can live the Shakespeare experience and are very committed to Chicago public Schools with alliances with educators and programs such as student ticket subsidies and training for teachers.
The Joffrey Ballet is committed to their idea of promoting ballet among younger audiences with its Millennials program, a series of three ballets by contemporary choreographers and by promoting dance education among young dancers, offering 110 programs in 44 Chicago public schools. The Lemonis bridge program, the Middle School Dance Clubs (MSDC) and the High School Dance Clubs (HSDC), custom residency programs for schools, the Exelon Strobel Step-Up Program and the Advanced Arts Program are just some of the many programs that the Joffrey Ballet offer for community enrichment. Discounts prices for students and teachers are available all year.
Chicago is one of the cities that has a large list of charities where people can donate to the cause they think appeals more to their feelings. Cultural development is something that an advanced society needs to take care of as it the expression and feeling of the community it represents. Many charities are focused on helping people that have issues. Cultural charities are focused on education and social transformation through educational programs. It could be through dancing, teaching environmentalism or making books accessible that cultural charities will help the community to be more informed and have the right criteria to make important decisions.