Where is Bank of America's $32 million in Arts Funding?

There are few things that are more frustrating than big companies patting themselves on the back for their philanthropy but not being clear as to exactly where the money is going. Not that Bank of America is doing that exactly, but trying to find out who is benefiting from Bank of America's reported $32 million in arts funding in 2010 is proving to be more than a little bit difficult.

Corporate social responsibility (CSR) and charity aren't generally the first thoughts that come to mind when the name Bank of America comes up, well, anywhere. However, the Bank of America Charitable Foundation (See Wall Street Donors: Bank of America Charitable Foundation) is doing good things in the world of arts and culture, at least according to its CSR Reports.

The foundation's charitable giving, or "philanthropic investing" as they refer to it, reaches far and wide in the arts world with three main programs: The Art Conservation Project, Art in Our Communities, and Museums on Us. (Read Market Philanthropic Director Miki Akimoto's IP profile).

Bank of America recently awarded grants to a large number of museums for their continuing efforts in conserving and restoring precious works of art for future generations to enjoy. The museums include:

  • The Iraqi Institute for the Conservation of Antiquities and Heritage (Erbil, Iraq)
  • Rezah Has Museum (Istanbul)
  • The Kunsthaus Zurich Museum of Moderan Art (Zurich)
  • Dulwich Picture Gallery (London)
  • The Tokyo National Museum (Tokyo)
  • The National Gallery of Art (Washington, D.C.)

The Art in Our Communities program allows museums to apply to the foundation for a loan from its corporate-owned art. BoA makes these loans to museums around the world free of charge. Its corporate collection is said to be one of the most extensive and priceless collections in the world.

The Museums on Us program allows anyone who is a Bank of America or Merrill Lynch cardholder to visit museums free of charge on the first weekend of every month.

The foundation's website provides basic information and grant seekers must take an eligibility quiz before they can submit grant proposals, but beyond that there isn't much to go on except that the grants are made at the foundation's discretion.

The combined costs of the Art Conservation Project, Art in Our Communities, and Museums on Us programs we can assume, is rather expensive, but when fiscal transparency is such a touchy subject these days for the government, corporations, and even charitable foundations, why the financial shroud from Bank of America?

Bank of America (the corporation) issued a 276-page annual report, so it seems that fiscal transparency is important regarding the company. Most philanthropic organizations publish an annual report similar to that of a corporation. There may be nothing wrong with Bank of America's Charitable Foundation not making an annual report public, but it is a bit curious, is it not?