Paying it forward: North Carolina’s key arts patrons
Arts in N.C.
By Cameron Walker
A handful of N.C. families have had an outsized impact on the state’s arts communities. Local arts officials cite the most prominent patrons.
Jim Goodmon, CEO and president of Raleigh-based Capitol Broadcasting Co., and his wife, Barbara, oversee the family’s A.J. Fletcher Foundation, which gave $10 million to the University of North Carolina School of the Arts in 2001 to start an opera program and $500,000 to fund programming by UNC-TV in 2010. Another notable Goodmon project involved three Jaume Plensa sculptures, “Doors of Jerusalem,” donated to the North Carolina Museum of Art in 2010.
The Kenan family, which has poured tens of millions of dollars into North Carolina over the last century, remains active backers of the arts. Thomas S. Kenan III, vice chairman of the company that runs Florida’s Breakers resort, pushed for the creation of what is now the UNC School of the Arts in Winston-Salem. He also established the Kenan Music Scholars Program, which provides annual scholarships to four students. In 2010, he helped the museum acquire Jennifer Steinkamp’s “Mike Kelley” video installation.
The Hanes family has been championing art in North Carolina for decades. Gordon and Copey Hanes donated works by Pablo Picasso to the Diggs Gallery at Winston-Salem State University and Salem College, helped establish UNC School of the Arts in the 1960s, and provided the first works to the N.C. Museum of Arts African collection. Their son Redge Hanes continues their legacy. In 1988, he lobbied U.S. Sen. Jesse Helms in a successful attempt to save public funding for the National Endowment for the Arts, an experience reflected in his 2014 debut novel, Billy Bowater.
Jim Goodnight, co-founder and CEO of Cary-based software company SAS Institute, and his wife, Ann, have donated millions to education, but they have also given generously to the arts. Their name is on the state art museum’s 164-acre sculpture park, and their contributions of art include the 20-foot-tall “Wind Sculpture II” by Yinka Shonibare MBE in 2014.
Brothers I.D. and Herman Blumenthal started a family foundation with proceeds from their Charlotte-based manufacturing business, best known for its Gunk products. The foundation was the largest private donor to the capital campaign for Charlotte’s Blumenthal Performing Arts Center, above, which opened in 1992 and houses Belk Theater, Booth Playhouse and Stage Door Theater. Herman’s son Philip now leads the Blumenthal Foundation and Wildacres Retreat, a Burke County conference center for nonprofits that offers no-cost residencies for artists.
Betty Cone has been an influential figure in the Greensboro art scene for many years. She spearheaded the fundraising to restore the city’s Carolina Theatre, below, in 1991. For more than three decades, she has worked without a salary to bring holiday street festivals to downtown Greensboro, including the Fun Fourth Festival and the wintertime Festival of Lights. ArtsGreensboro each year gives an award in her name to a local artist.
Jim Patton, co-founder of Washington, D.C., law firm Patton Boggs, and his late wife, Mary, assembled an exceptional collection of 20th-century American art, which they donated to the NCMA in 2015. The contemporary collection, including some works by Mary Patton, is valued at $25 million to $30 million. Patton also gave his collection of more than 400 rare books, including works by T.S. Eliot, Robinson Jeffers and Thomas Pynchon, estimated to be worth $2.5 million, to the rare-book collection at UNC Chapel Hill’s Wilson Library.
Leon Levine, founder of a dollar-store empire, and wife, Sandra, funded Charlotte’s Levine Center for the Arts, an umbrella designation encompassing the Bechtler Museum of Modern Art, above, the Harvey B. Gantt Center for African-American Arts + Culture, the Knight Theater and Mint Museum Uptown. Their son Howard Levine and daughter-in-law Julie Lerner Levine are supporting many arts projects as part of a $45 million donation through the Foundation for the Carolinas. Their gifts include a $1 million contribution toward the $52 million restoration of the Carolina Theatre at Belk Place.
Steven Tanger, president and CEO of Greensboro-based Tanger Factory Outlet Centers, pledged $7.5 million in 2013 toward the 3,000-seat Steven Tanger Center for the Performing Arts in downtown Greensboro. Construction of the $65 million center started in July and is expected to be completed in 2018.
Featured image are three Jaume Plensa sculptures, “Doors of Jerusalem,” provided by the North Carolina Museum of Art
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