Ann and Gordon Getty Foundation: Grants for Higher Education


OVERVIEW: Not to be confused with the Getty Foundation established  by their father, J. Paul Getty, the Ann and Gordon Getty Foundation gives performing arts support to educational institutions as well as symphonies and opera companies. Most of their giving is based in California - including a number of music scholarships - but their higher ed performing arts philanthropy has supported institutions nationwide. The foundation has also been a partial backer of several recent scientific studies.

IP TAKE: The Gettys have given regularly to higher ed, but the foundation doesn't disclose anything about their grantmaking process and has no web presence.

PROFILE: Based in San Francisco, the Ann and Gordon Getty Foundation has historically been a major arts grant funder. They have shown a preference for organizations based in California, distributing a large share of their funding there, but their giving for higher ed has benefited institutions throughout the nation. Gordon Getty, one of the richest men in America, is himself a music composer in addition to his work in the business and investment worlds.

Over the years, the foundation has distributed millions of dollars to hundreds of music organizations throughout the country. In addition to institutions of higher education, recipients have included symphonies and opera companies.  

Recent higher ed arts grantees have included the Music Departments at multiple University of California campuses, Stanford University’s Stanford Live, and the University of Washington School of Music, and the Northwestern University Bienen School of Music. Grants have come in the form of both unrestricted support and program-specific funding.

Most of the foundation’s grants have ranged from $2,000 to $50,000. The foundation has been known to issue grants in significantly higher amounts, but much less often. 

The foundation has also put funding behind a number of higher ed performing arts scholarships, most of them for music undergrads and grad students at California colleges and universities like California Polytechnic State University, the University of California Irvine, and California State University Fullerton.

In addition, the foundation has on occasion given university support to projects outside the arts, with a number of recently-published, Getty-backed studies coming out of the hard sciences. For example, the foundation was cited as a major backer of a study on “the time elapsed between the emergence of early dinosaur relatives and the origin of the first dinosaurs,” conducted by “scientists from Argentina, Brazil, California and the Natural History Museum of Utah at the University of Utah.” The foundation also threw support behind a separate dinosaur-related study at U.C. Berkeley that focused on the effect of an asteroid’s collision with the Earth on“mass extinction” of the dinosaurs and much other life on the planet. The Gettys also funded a recently-published study by two researchers from the University of Wyoming on sediment size in California’s High Sierra region. The foundation additionally supported a genome study into “Eurasian migration into ancient Africa.” Again going back to the Gettys’ Bay Area connection, it bears mentioning that some of these studies were also supported by the Esper S. Larsen Fund at U.C. Berkeley.

There are some big hurdles to gaining Getty funding, however. Firstly, the foundation doesn't maintain a website and doesn't issue any calls for direct proposals. Also worth noting here is that although contemporary news reports are available documenting various instances of foundation giving, in one recent year the foundation’s tax filing showed no grants approved for future payment, making predicting the foundation’s future giving somewhat murky.


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    Ann and Gordon Getty Foundation
    1 Embarcadero Ctr., Ste. 1350
    San Francisco, CA United States 94111-3700
    Telephone: 415-352-4410