If you aren't paying close attention to the growing giving by entertainment figures, you should. Today's stars, as well as directors and producers, make exponentially more money than they did in earlier eras, and that wealth is driving a level of giving from the entertainment industry that's never been seen before.
It's not just that stars are giving more. It's that some are giving at a much earlier career stage, much like the tech donors we write about at IP, but for different reasons. Previously, the uncertainty about future earnings made celebrities very cautious about parting with any of their money. But the scale of today's paychecks mean that no matter what happens down the line, top stars will still have plenty of extra wealth.
Which brings us to 26-year-old Jennifer Lawrence, best known for her role in the Hunger Games franchise. As we've written before, she's already created the Jennifer Lawrence Foundation, which has focused on her home state of Kentucky. Her foundation is involved with youth outfits such as St. Mary’s Center, a "non-denominational agency (that) serves over 150 adults and teens with intellectual disabilities from the Louisville Metro area," and West End School, a free, private college preparatory elementary and middle school for at-risk young men in Louisville. Lawrence also gave a $2 million gift from the Jennifer Lawrence Foundation to establish a cardiac intensive care unit a children's hospital in Louisville.
Meanwhile, the money keeps rolling in for Lawrence. Forbes recently crowned her the highest paid actress on the planet. She earned $46 million before taxes last year and also has the distinction of being the youngest actress on the Forbes list.
Another cause for Lawrence is arts education. Recently, it was announced that she's giving more than $200,000 to several Greater Louisville arts organizations through her the Jennifer Lawrence Arts Fund at the Fund for the Arts (JLAF).
Created earlier this year, the JLAF supports the mission of the Louisville-based Fund for the Arts and the key objectives identified by the Jennifer Lawrence Foundation, a component fund of the Community Foundation of Louisville Inc.
Each grant supports the mission of the Fund for the Arts, which is to maximize the "impact of the arts on economic development, education and the quality of life for everyone by generating resources, inspiring excellence, and creating community connections," according to a press release. Examples of awarded grants include:
- $25,000 to Actors Theatre of Louisville to support capital improvements
- $20,000 to Commonwealth Theatre Center to increase capacity of education and outreach programs
- $25,000 to Kentucky Shakespeare to support the January production of "Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead" at the Kentucky Center for the Performing Arts
One big takeaway from this gift is obvious: Arts education, like many other sectors of the U.S. economy, hasn't fully recovered from the Great Recession. And it's safe to say it won't find a knight in shining armor in the Trump administration or in cash-strapped state governments. As we noted approximately two years ago, private philanthropy—surprise!—must fill the gap.
Of course, there are many examples of successful actors supporting arts-related causes. Will and Jada Smith support female filmmakers. Actress Diane Lane funds a grant for arts educators to honor the late composer, writer, and director Elizabeth Swados, And Meryl Streep has provided consistent support for the arts for decades.
That said, we haven't come across too many examples like that of Lawrence: A Hollywood mega-star setting up her own foundation and partnering with a community foundation to support art education efforts in her hometown.
And so we can't help but wonder—do Hollywood stars represent the sleeping giants of arts education philanthropy?