Washington Area Women's Foundation

Arts are an important investment, even when resources are tight.

Looking at the recent grants issued by our two giving circles, they may seem a bit counter-intuitive given the current economic climate.

Some have asked me why I believe funding the arts for girls is so important when there are many other pressing issues and priorities in our city, and funds are so tight.

But I’m proud of these recent funding choices by our African American Women’s Giving Circle and the Rainmakers, who chose this grantmaking cycle to invest in the Cultural Academy for Excellence (CAFÉ), a music arts program for girls in Maryland, and The Art League, an art mentoring program for at-risk, pre-teen girls in Virginia.

I salute these choices because in tough economic times, so often the arts are among the first cuts made in schools and programs for youth.

And at The Women’s Foundation, it is part of our mission to encourage philanthropy that focuses on filling the gaps where services are most needed and our support can make a unique, significant contribution.

I am a long-time supporter of the arts. I serve on the board of the Cultural Development Corporation, which is committed to supporting artistic outlets in Washington, D.C. that also create economic return for our community.

I personally invest in the arts because I believe that they are a fundamental part of the health and vibrancy of any community, contributing a space for dialogue, reflection, spiritual and emotional growth and intellectual challenge. The arts remind us of our shared humanity.

Similarly, the programs our giving circles have chosen to support use the arts as a means to help our community’s young women to build self-esteem, academic skills, and an expanded sense of their place in their community and the world.

Opportunities like these are all-too-often lost in communities and families where resources are limited and must be directed to more basic needs like food, shelter and clothing.

So, at a time when attention is focused on where to cut back so many programs and opportunities, I’m proud to see our giving circle members taking the lead in recognizing the need for youth in our area to imagine and create a future based on all of their unique talents and potential.

Whether they lie in a book or on a computer, or on a stage or blank canvas.

Phyllis Caldwell is president of The Women’s Foundation.