Agnes Gund and Mark Bradford on Art and Social Justice

Agnes Gund, the pioneering collector and former president of the Museum of Modern Art, has devoted her life to a form of activist arts philanthropy that stands as a paradigm not only for her generation but also for those to come. To address the near-elimination of arts education in public schools during the New York City fiscal crisis in 1977, she used her resources to begin Studio in a School, a nonprofit that sends professional artists into schools and community organizations to lead classes and assist teachers; to date the organization has reached more than 850,000 students with its programs. For that and other efforts, she received the 1997 National Medal of Arts, the highest award given to artists and art patrons by the United States government. Two years ago, in what may come to be seen as the defining act of her charitable career, Gund sold one of her most prized paintings, Roy Lichtenstein’s 1962 Masterpiece, and devoted $100 million from the proceeds to found Art for Justice, a five-year initiative aimed at addressing the failings of the criminal justice and penal system—particularly its racial biases—through cultural grants, administered with the help of the Ford Foundation and Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors.

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