Edward C. Johnson Fund: Grants for Visual Arts

OVERVIEW: The Edward C. Johnson Fund awards tens of millions of dollars in grants annually. It supports the arts and prioritizes institutions in the Boston area.    

IP TAKE: Beyond its direct arts giving, the family supports the lending of art to museums. The foundation does not have a website and provides no clear guidelines for grant seekers. 

PROFILE: The Edward C. Johnson Fund is distinct from the Fidelity Foundation, although the Johnson family is active in both. Edward Johnson’s father, Edward Johnson II, founded Fidelity Investments in 1946. Fidelity has grown to manage trillions in assets. After graduating from Harvard and spending a few years in the army, Johnson joined his father and eventually took over the company. Johnson recently ceded control of Fidelity Investments to his daughter Abigail Johnson, who now serves as president and CEO. Abigail's net worth currently sits at around $12 billion. Her father, meanwhile, is worth around $7 billion. Collectively, the Johnson clan is worth around $26 billion.

Johnson’s philanthropy largely remains close to home, but he does support charities throughout the country through Fidelity’s charitable arm. The family's primary grantmaking organization, the Edward C. Johnson Fund, has a big interest in art. It held more than $300 million in assets and gave away around $82 million in 2013.

The largest recipient of arts donations from the Johnson Family by far has been the Brookfield Arts Foundation. Founded in 1999 by Johnson, the foundation purchases art and then lends it to museums.

Johnson is an honorary trustee at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston and has been associated with the museum since 1971. In recent years, the Museum of Fine Arts has received more than $4.5 million from the Johnson family through their fund.

The Peabody Essex Museum in Salem, Massachusetts has also received at least $20 million. Other organizations receiving smaller sums include the Institute of Contemporary Art, the Society of Arts and Crafts and the American Friends of the Victoria and Albert Museum, a Greenwich, Connecticut-based group that helps support acquisitions, conservation, and research at Victoria and Albert Museum in London. Johnson gave $62,000 to the latter organization back in 2010, but it is possible that other gifts have come via the Brookfield Arts Foundation. This may apply to other organizations Johnson funds as well. 

The Johnson fund is not just confined to the Boston area when making grants, though it does appear to be a preference. In past years, the Furniture Society in North Carolina and International Netsuke Society, which has local U.S chapters in cities such as Chicago, Los Angeles and New York, have received funds.

Finally, it is worth keeping a close eye on Johnson's daughter Abigail and her siblings.  Given Johnson's age, there's a good chance that this next generation will largely guide the family's future philanthropy.

There is no process for submitting unsolicited applications. The foundation does not have a website and provides no clear guidelines for grant seekers. A personal connection with someone associated with the fund may be the best way to get started.


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