Working with writer Karen Amster-Young, AMM took time to interview impact philanthropist Adrienne Arsht to find out what she has been doing and her plans for the holidays.
AMM: You have given back in so many ways and support so many people and causes. What inspires you, day to day, when you determine where and how to donate your time, resources, and energy?
AA: It’s not the day to day, it is the cumulative and recurring themes and needs that drive my passion and energy.
AMM: Why do you believe the Arts are so important?
AA: I cannot imagine a world without the arts. When supporting the arts, you are preserving the essence of civilization for now and for hundreds of years to come. It is thrilling to know that a gift to the arts will be shared by people in a future we can’t even imagine. Art is part of who we are and helps define us. It has been treasured for centuries and will continue indefinitely.
AMM: You’ve been called an “impact philanthropist.” What does this mean to you?
AA: That my gifts will make an indelible difference that will benefit generations to come. Our time on earth is a gift. The rent we pay for that gift is how we give back to make the world a better place.
AMM: The last year or two has been especially difficult for museums, aspiring artists and many of the causes you and many others contribute to – everyone is still recuperating. Can you share a few thoughts about how the pandemic impacted your work, perspective, and contributions?
AA: The last year taught us so much. Through adversity comes creativity and strength. Everything past, present and future was, are and will be examples of resilience. I am optimistic about the future where we will experience the innovative uses of new technology, that will expand and improve our interactions. Successful Institutions have learned to pivot and to stay relevant and creative. I look forward to enjoying new creations that have been inspired by these challenging and difficult times. Think about new paintings, sculpture, dance, music and writing: The Covid-19 Symphony, The Covid-19 Ballet with 19 dancers or even a book entitled “You Are on Mute” – these are all examples of what came from the pandemic.
AMM: What did your game changing gift to The Met mean to you, personally? How is the Adrienne Arsht Internship impacting the first recipients? You also announced at the Arsht Center Gala this past May a program to fund Arsht Interns and challenged guests and the community to match your gift. How was that received?
AA: Paid internships are an important step towards increasing opportunities and supporting equity in every field. Unpaid internships are barriers for many who may not be able to afford to intern for free. The Met received an increase in applications by over 300% after these paid internships were announced. In Miami I announced a donation of $25,000 annually for four years to support Arsht Interns and challenged attendees to match my gift. It was thrilling that this inspired so many and we raised $300K that one evening. I was grateful that others saw that paying interns is a game changer.
AMM: What are you most passionate about today that will have an impact in the world?
AA: One of my priorities is to spread the word and inform the world that heat, is silent killer causing more deaths than all climate related events. Through the visionary leadership of the Adrienne Arsht-Rockefeller Foundation Resilience Center, we have made it possible for more and more cities around the world to support a Chief Heat Officer to oversee and dedicate resources to address this pressing issue. I am also passionate about the role of meditation and how the mind influences the body to make us more resilient especially for soldiers and veterans.
AMM: Can you share a few sentences about your history, background and what inspired all your work to give back?
AA: I learned from both my parents at an early age about being active in the community and that philanthropy is about making a difference and doing something others might not take on. I use this as the basis for all of my philanthropic decisions.
AMM: What inspires you, fills your heart? How do you take a break and find happiness in your own time, when you have a few minutes – beyond giving back.
AA: 24/7 is my own time. If I took a break, I would be dead. I find a way to be happy about everything.
AMM: How do you think a performing arts center impacts the community?
AA: To be deemed a great city, it must have a performing arts center. We have seen this in Miami with the Arsht Center. A performing arts center has the ability and the responsibility to bring new things to light, to audiences. They can only do that if they have the financial foundation to support it.
AAM: What are you looking forward to during this holiday season and how will you ring in the New Year?
AA: As part of my New Year’s celebration, I am going to watch the PBS special United in Song, featuring the American Pops Orchestra conducted by my dear friend, Maestro Luke Frazier. I was fortunate to be part of this taping at Mt. Vernon earlier this fall with so many extraordinary artists that I admire and respect including Juanes, Patti LaBelle, Brian Stokes Mitchell, Audra McDonald and Joshua Bell and others. United in Song celebrates Resilience in America through the power of music. This special concert brings together the unification of America. I can’t think of a better way to ring in the New Year.
As an award-winning communications professional for over two decades, Karen Amster-Young is now a Strategic Advisor with Sabrina Levine Communications working with top lifestyle brands. She is a published writer whose articles have appeared in numerous media outlets both nationally and in the Hamptons. She is also the co-author of The 52 Weeks (Skyhorse Publishing). Karen resides in New York City and Southampton.