"It's an enormous responsibility when you think about someone’s legacy," says Lynn Caponera, and she should know. She's the president of the Maurice Sendak Foundation, named after the acclaimed children's writer who passed away in 2012.
The New York Times recently published a piece on the foundation's efforts to build a kind of public meeting/study center for the author in accordance with Sendak's wishes. It's a bit more complicated than you'd think.
Let's first start with the simple stuff. In his will, Sendak wanted his Ridgefiled, Connecticut home to operate "as a museum or similar facility, to be used by scholars, students, artists, illustrators and writers, and to be opened to the general public," as the Maurice Sendak Foundation’s directors saw fit. Sendak's words bring to mind places with public tours and gift shops and turnstiles — places like the Georgia O'Keeffe Museum in Santa Fe, or the Emily Dickinson Museum, in Amhert, Massachusetts.
But as it turns out, the foundation envisions something a bit more subtle. Donald A. Hamburg, a trusts and estates lawyer and a foundation board member, said, "We're following the wishes of Maurice, stated in his will, that the house become a study center for scholars, artists and others, to see what inspired him. And people of that ilk will be admitted one at a time with supervision and will be able to see the house."
That said, local residents have ideas of their own. They've been lobbying the foundation with the hopes of creating a classic stand-alone museum that would also provide an economic jolt to Ridgefield, population 25,000.
The Maurice Sendak Foundation is also in the business of awarding grants to emerging artists. In fact, while Sendak left some items to places like the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Rosenbach Museum and Library most of his estate, including future royalties, went to his foundation.
The foundation provides support through fellowships and grants. The Sendak Fellowship, which began in 2010, is a four-week summer residency program at Scotch Hill Farm in Cambridge, New York for artists who tell stories with illustration. The goal of the fellowship, according to Sendak himself, was to encourage artists to "create work that is not vapid, stupid, or sexy, but original. Work that excites and incites. Illustration is like dance; it should move like — and to — music."
The foundation named six fellows in July of 2015. You can see them all here.
As to the latter, the foundation seems to be drawn to nonprofits in its backyard of upstate New York and New England. Last year, it awarded a $15,000 matching grant to Hubbard Hall, a regional arts and education center in Cambridge, New York. It also awarded a $5,000 grant to the upstate New York-based Battenkill Chorale help with the band's travel costs from Minnesota to Washington County, New York.