On February 10th, the Chronicle of Philanthropy announced its list of the most charitable individuals in the US. It was a who's who of tech titans, Wall Street executives, and high-profile philanthropists. (In case you were wondering, Mark Zuckerberg topped the list.) But for every Mark Zuckerberg, Sergey Brin, and Larry Ellison, there are people like Theodore S. Bartwink. You may not have heard of Mr. Bartwink, but to the dance community in New York City, he's a hero.
For most of his professional career, Bartwink was the executive director of the Harnkess Foundation for Dance. And now, after over 30 years at the helm, he's stepping down at the spry age of 85. He'll be replaced Joan Finkelstein, a former director of the 92nd Street Y Harkness Dance Center who has been the director of dance programs for the New York City Department of Education.
We find this seemingly commonplace news story compelling for two reasons. One, while larger philanthropic dance organizations provide a majority of dance-related funding, we'd venture to argue that the smaller local organizations "on the ground" are the true creative and financial engines of community dance.
For example, in the last 10 years alone, the Harnkess Foundation has given over $10 million to dance organizations of all sizes. And while we can tell you that even a few thousand dollars can make or break a local troupe, this sentiment is best expressed by William Perlmuth, the chairman of the foundation’s board, who noted, "Most people would be shocked to learn how important it is for a small dance company to get a thousand, two thousand, five thousand dollars. It can be the difference between staying in business and collapsing.”
Translation: many New York dance organizations owe their literal existence to Bartwink and his three decades of work.
Secondly, the news underscores the less-than-glamorous reality that there are thousands of Theodore S. Bartwinks out there, going out about their business in a low-profile, professional, and unassuming way. They don't make major headlines. They don't take out full-page ads in the Times. And, unlike the case of Mr. Zuckerberg, they don't sit down on Oprah's couch. (Not that we have anything against Oprah or her couch. If anything, she hasn't been returning our calls.)
In fact, perhaps the most fascinating element of the story is that Bartwink is retiring due to injuries sustained from being hit by a car. In other words, were it not for this freakish accident, he probably would continue to serve New York's dance community quietly and effectively for many years to come.
For more IP insight and analysis around trends in dance funding, click here.