Inchworm Philanthropy: A Quick Look at Another Campus Arts Give

You, dear reader, are in for a treat. That's because this very post you are reading kicks off with one of the coolest quotes ever uttered by a philanthropist. And it goes like this:

Have you ever seen an inchworm crawl up a leaf or twig, and, then, clinging to the very end, revolves in the air, feeling for something to reach? That's like me. I am trying to find something out there beyond the place on which I have a footing.

The original quote comes from painter Albert P. Ryder, but it was brought to our attention by Daniel W. Dietrich II, a 1964 Hamilton College graduate and philanthropist. The quote served as Deitrich's spiritual and aesthetic roadmap during his life, and although he passed away last year, his legacy lives on.

A fund established by Dietrich II prior to his passing has provided the college with a $6 million gift to establish the Daniel W. Dietrich ’64 Fund for Innovation in the Arts and the Daniel W. Dietrich ’64 Arts Museum Programming  Fund. These two funds will significantly expand the New York State-based college’s already robust arts programming for its faculty, students, and community.

Now, before we take a closer look at Dietrich's gift—and, of course, the inchworm metaphor—we can't help but note that this gift comes on the heels of other impressive arts-related gives to "small-town" universities as of late. Recent examples come to us from Bloomington, Indiana and Lincoln, Nebraska. Add it all up and these spate of gifts suggest that big cities, quite naturally, needn't have a monopoly on world-class art or awe-inspiring buildings.

We're also intrigued by the mechanics of Dietrich's gift. Which brings us back to the inchworm analogy. (Bear with us here.) Dietrich noted that, much like the aforementioned inchworm, he was "trying to find something out there beyond the place on which I have a footing."

But of course, an inchworm can only cover so much ground. There a lot more "out there," but physically speaking, the little guy is rather limited in the amount of terrain he can reasonably cover. (The fact that inchworms start out in life as eggs, spending the winter attached to the underside of leaves certainly doesn't help either.)

The same dynamic presents itself in the arts programming space. There's only so much one individual can do, so why not—for a lack of better term—outsource the grantmaking to the experts, namely faculty and curators? 

And so income from the Daniel W. Dietrich ’64 Fund for Innovation in the Arts will be used to make grants to faculty in the arts and curators at the Ruth and Elmer Wellin Museum of Art. The grants will be managed by the Dean of Faculty, who will appoint a panel of faculty artists and two outside evaluators to assess proposals and to make awards. Possible projects may run the gamut from technology-driven collaborative art installations to summer arts institutes to orchestrated gatherings of artists from several disciplines to create site-specific artworks on campus.

According to the Hamilton press release, emphasis will be placed on "collaboration, innovation, exploration and risk-taking."

Meanwhile, income from the Daniel W. Dietrich ’64 Arts Museum Programming  Fund will be used to enable the Wellin Museum of Art to secure commitments from contemporary artists, engage faculty and students with the exhibitions, and much more.

"The Dietrich Arts Museum Programming Fund will allow for experimentation and risk in art-making at the Wellin Museum of Art," said Wellin Museum Director Tracy Adler. "This grant supports the spirit and power of creativity by providing game-changing funding for the museum’s programming."