Personally, and professionally, July for me has been a month of pause. One of the underlying principles behind my founding of Innovation Philanthropy is the benefit of a pause. Whether a pause results from external circumstances or is self-imposed- it is always a time that can help define the next North Star or discover adjustments to the next steps.
In the case of the AKG, we were finally able to fully open the doors to the new Jeffrey E. Gundlach building to the public on August 3rd. Despite this unintentional pause, our ribbon cutting in June marked the beginning of a new era for the museum. What made this new era possible? Building on the legacy of the generations of philanthropists who created and sustained the Albright-Knox Art Gallery for 160 years, and adding in the many new philanthropists who are committed to the idea that museums are much more that art on the walls.
Just as the philanthropists of the past were in the forefront by supporting the innovative establishment of The Room for Contemporary Art at the Albright Art Gallery in 1939, today our supporters boldly believe in a vision of culture for everyone as an integral part of a healthy and thriving region. Our capital campaign’s donor list includes 1,758 donors – out of 2,767 – who are entirely new to the museum. An incredible show of belief in t
Some might say it took too long to realize the vision for a physical expansion of the museum. The original call for expansion was set by the Board in 2001. But another way to look at this long trajectory, is that, given the time, leaders of the museum, board and staff included, had the opportunity to forge a vison that built tremendous community support, enabling transformative change for the institution.
One of the countless things I learned during the process of building the new AKG, was that museums were not originally established as places of collective memory or as places to inspire the future. Guests were granted access at the pleasure of the owner and given an opportunity to marvel at their treasures. Today, our vision reflects a museum as a place to share content, inspire creativity, hear different perspectives, and forge connections – serving as a dynamic force for positive change in our community – inviting and welcoming everyone through our doors.
Reinvention is not a task for the faint of heart. To get there, supporting and empowering an organization to take the time needed to meld a vision of where the path leads is essential. Such support is part of the power of philanthropy.
I am so proud to be a part of this time in the history of the Buffalo AKG Art Museum. The long process the museum went through, encompasses not only a physical transformation, but also a vision of the AKG as an integral part of a thriving cultural ecosystem in our greater community.
And that unplanned for pause between the ribbon cutting and now? It gave the museum staff time to better understand visitor’s needs and desires as they explored the two re-opened buildings- making for a better experience for all as the entire campus opens to the public. As for me personally, taking time off in July has gifted me refreshed enthusiasm for thinking about and sharing how philanthropy can steward transformative change.