Glitzy capital improvements and new private museums are getting a lot of press across the philanthropic arts space of late, but under the radar, donors remain bullish on funding a particularly important commodity: humans.
Pittsburgh philanthropists Daniel and Carole Kamin recently gave $5 million to permanently endow the Carnegie Museum of Natural History's director position. The gift, which will be paid out in installments over several years, comes a few months after two other museums in mid-sized cities—the St. Louis Art Museum and the Milwaukee Art Museum—received similar gifts earmarked for the director position.
The three gifts share many common characteristics, most notably that they highlight the ever-changing role of museum director. The position at the Carnegie Museum, for example, requires the director to oversee "research, exhibitions and visitor experiences at the Oakland museum, whose collection of artifacts is meant to broaden the public's understanding of conversation, biodiversity and evolution."
What's more, individual donors like the Kamins aren't alone in their interest in funding and articulating a vision for the next-generation museum director. In a recent post, we looked at the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation's curator's job description for the 21st century.
Add it all up, and top-notch candidates are in high demand. High-caliber talent doesn't come cheap—even in cities not named New York City and Los Angeles. Commenting on the $21 million gift from philanthropist Barbara Taylor to endow the St. Louis Art Museum's directorship, current Director Brent Benjamin sums up the overarching sentiment succinctly, noting, "It means the museum can compete in the national and international markets for talent. It really makes it possible for the museum to have the person it wants to have in this position."
And what about the donors to the Carnegie Museum?
Carole Kamin is a longtime Carnegie Museum of Natural History board member and serves on its merchandising committee. She has worked as a buyer and manager for both the Carnegie Museum of Art and Natural History gift shops for more than 20 years. Mr. Kamin, meanwhile, is the owner and president of Kamin Realty Co. The couple have long supported the arts in Pittsburgh through the Daniel G. Kamin and Carole L. Kamin Fund.
In acknowledgement of the gift, the museum will rename the position the Daniel G. and Carole L. Kamin Director of Carnegie Museum of Natural History.