November 03, 2013

Rockefeller Fund Solicits Artwork That Celebrates Giving Globally

Photograph by Joe Xie

On a sprawling canvas, a black-and-white image of a child’s face stares ahead, unflinching. A closer look reveals that the countenance is made up of words carefully written with a black marker. As the words snake through the eyebrows, outline the mouth, and swirl through the pupils, they form sentences about the meaning of philanthropy.

The artwork, created by the multimedia artist Phil Hansen, was commissioned by the Rockefeller Foundation as part of its centennial celebration.

During the month of October, the foundation invited people around the globe to share their thoughts on philanthropy. Mr. Hansen incorporated elements of the 600-plus submissions from 68 countries into “The Art of Philanthropy,” which was unveiled last week in Washington.

The piece’s subject matter—a child—represents the future and dovetails with the foundation’s centennial focus on ways to solve the problems of the next 100 years, says Michael Myers, senior policy officer and director of centennial programming.

In commissioning the artwork, the foundation sought to encourage as many people as possible to contemplate philanthropy. “We were looking for a way to engage people in an interactive way, so that it’s almost as if the person sitting on the other side of the world is holding the pen along with Phil in creating this art,” says Mr. Myers.

The artwork provided a chance to air the opinions of people “from all walks of life,” says Mr. Hansen. “Seeing what our common threads are, and looking at it collectively, we can better mold philanthropy for the future,” he wrote in an e-mail to The Chronicle.

Among the responses Mr. Hansen wove into the work: “Philanthropy literally means love of humanity,” wrote a person from South Africa. “You are asked to do only your little bit of good where you are, because when these bits of good are put together, they overwhelm and transform the world.”

Another project goal was to inspire contributors’ and viewers’ involvement in tackling community problems. “I’m optimistic this will not be the end of the engagement by people who participated in the project,” says Mr. Myers.

The Rockefeller Foundation is now scouting public places where it can display the artwork.