Deeply Involved: Hands-on Giving to the Performing Arts by an L.A. Couple

The LA Music Center. Let Go Media/shutterstock

The LA Music Center. Let Go Media/shutterstock

A few years ago we spoke with Los Angeles lawyer David Gindler, who, along with his wife Kiki Ramos Gindler, has emerged as a top local arts funder. Rather than operating a formal family foundation, the couple instead gives large individual gifts, including to Los Angeles Master Chorale, which has received more than $2 million from the Gindlers through the years. I recently caught up with David Gindler to find out what’s new with his family’s philanthropy and about their continued high-level support for the arts in Los Angeles.

First, if you missed our last article, here’s a quick rundown on the Gindler family. David Gindler serves as managing partner of Irell & Manella, which focuses on intellectual property litigation and licensing. Gindler graduated from Pomona College in suburban Los Angeles before getting his J.D. from UCLA Law School. Kiki Ramos Gindler is also a Pomona alum, received her J.D. from Harvard Law, and specialized in corporate and entertainment law.

Gindler started by explaining to me why the arts, particularly the performing arts, looms large in their philanthropy. “We both grew up in Los Angeles, and were beneficiaries of the performing arts scene as we were coming of age. And so it’s important to us to make sure that everyone else has the same opportunities that we had.”

A lot of the Gindlers’ attention is focused on the Music Center and its four resident companies—The Los Angeles Opera, The Los Angeles Philharmonic, Los Angeles Master Chorale, and Center Theater Group, the largest nonprofit theater organization in the country. Kiki serves as president of the board of Center Theater Group, and is the board’s first Latina leader. She’s also on the board of L.A. Opera and the Music Center. David is on the board of L.A. Phil and Los Angeles Master Chorale, where he served as board chair for six years through the summer of 2018. When Gindler stepped down as chair, he and Kiki gave another $1 million to L.A. Master Chorale.

The couple has given steadily to all of these institutions, and this is by design. Gindler explains that we “only provide very significant support to organizations where we actually play a leadership role in the organization.”

When I asked about the value of this hands-on model, Gindler said, “We like to really understand the organization, its governance, its vision, and how it thinks about the cultural life of the communities that it serves. We can only do that when we are involved deeply, and that usually means sitting on the board. As we get acquainted with its vision, we’re going to commit our resources. Our philanthropy is really focused in that way. We’re not like a foundation that receives applications and then gives out money to places we think are worthy. No, we are two people who have a shared passion for the performing arts, and in deciding where to invest our resources, we first have to invest our time.”

While the Gindlers have supported large and well-known cultural institutions in Los Angeles, they’ve also supported a smaller-sized theater company called Antaeus Theatre Company. Located in Glendale, the actors ensemble formed in 1991. Gindler says that it’s a cohort of “very talented actors in L.A. who are very devoted to classic theater and believe that an actor-driven ensemble where the actors are the focus in creating the art is something unique and innovative.”

The couple has been involved with the organization since the late 2000s. The Gindlers have played a leadership role since arriving on the scene, helping lead a capital campaign to build a performing arts center which opened up a couple of years ago which bears their name. “We’re very proud of the impact that we’re having in growing the arts community in Los Angeles and we hope that our giving inspires others to do the same,” Gindler says.

When I asked Gindler if the family’s giving has ever considered organizations beyond Los Angeles, he told me that they primarily look at performing arts organizations with a deep connection to the county. However, that doesn’t mean that the organization can’t serve other communities. Consider Gindler’s directorship with Beth Morrison Projects (BMP), which fosters new opera and new opera theater. The bi-coastal BMP has a multiyear partnership with the L.A. Opera to bring new works of opera to Los Angeles. “The creation of new works of opera, which really pushes the boundaries of artistic innovation, is really exciting to us.” Artistic Director Beth Morrison has residences in L.A. and New York, as do the Gindlers. Still, it’s that long-term connection to Los Angeles that really sold the Gindlers on BMP.

Expect the family’s giving to continue in a similar vein, with large individual gifts streaming to Los Angeles performing arts organizations. “We’re very excited about the organizations that we support. We look to see how they can continue to grow, enrich the lives of our community, and how they can expand the artistry that is part of their mission.”

Related: Meet David Gindler, the L.A. Philanthropist with a Passion for Provocative Performing Arts