New grant-making program accelerates climate change action in visual arts

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New grant-making program accelerates climate change action in visual arts
Helen Frankenthaler, Cool Summer, 1962, oil on canvas, 69 3/4 x 120 inches (177.2 x 304.8 cm). Collection: Helen Frankenthaler Foundation, New York. © 2021 Helen Frankenthaler Foundation, Inc. / Artists Rights Society (ARS), NY. Photo credit: Rob McKeever, courtesy Gagosian.

NEW YORK, NY.- The Helen Frankenthaler Foundation launched the Frankenthaler Climate Initiative, an unprecedented $5-million, multi-year commitment to support and accelerate energy efficiency and clean energy use at visual arts museums and organizations. Developed in association with the Rocky Mountain Institute , a leading expert and advocate of clean energy, and Sustainable Museums , the Frankenthaler Climate Initiative is the first nation-wide program of its kind for the visual arts and the largest private national grant-making program to address climate change through cultural institutions. The initial cycle of grants will provide critical support to visual art museums in the United States seeking to assess their impact on the environment and to lower ongoing energy costs.

The Frankenthaler Climate Initiative builds on the Foundation’s commitment to social impact philanthropy begun in 2020, including its multi-year COVID-19 Relief Effort for artists and arts organizations and establishment of new grants to support greater diversity, equity, and inclusion in the field. The two-step application process, which opens today, begins with a required Letter of Interest, due by March 15, 2021. A limited number of museums will be selected to submit full proposals in late spring, and final awards will be announced in the fall.

“The Frankenthaler Climate Initiative aims to be a catalyst to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by arts institutions. A new world of cleantech is being invented by the acclaimed Rocky Mountain Institute to address the climate threat. The Helen Frankenthaler Foundation wants to bring that technology and know-how to art museums, big and small. Our goal is to enable these institutions to fulfill their role as thought leaders on the climate issue. Every museumgoer and artist is a prospective ally in the climate struggle. Who will paint the Guernica of climate?” said Fred Iseman, President of the Helen Frankenthaler Foundation. Added the Foundation’s Chairman Clifford Ross, “People might ask why a foundation devoted to the arts has turned its sights on climate change. It’s simple. The Frankenthaler Climate Initiative will enable museums to trim energy costs, balance budgets, and take a leadership role in the most challenging issue of our time. The arts can help us to achieve a sustainable future, and we want to be part of that effort.”

“As we enter this decisive decade in the fight against climate change, every sector of the U.S. economy is called to aggressively reduce greenhouse gas emissions,” said Jules Kortenhorst, CEO of Rocky Mountain Institute. “ Charitable institutions will require significant support for these technical and capital projects, but the good news is that so much of energy efficiency is cost-effective, providing financial benefits while reducing emissions. Every efficiency and clean generation project funded through the Frankenthaler Climate Initiative will be a form of endowment investment for the museum recipient and for the planet.”

Energy use is among the highest fixed costs at museums, and often the hardest to off-set as funding for museum facilities is largely tied to expansions or capital campaigns. Laura Lott, President & CEO of the American Alliance of Museums, further elaborated, “As facilities age, energy and maintenance costs from mechanical systems become an unsustainable burden on our operating budgets and a risk for our cherished collections. This new grant program will fill a major unmet need for existing facilities and help museums continue to evaluate and amplify their social responsibilities within their missions.”

The Frankenthaler Climate Initiative will fund energy efficiency and clean energy generation projects in the following three categories:

• Scoping grants help museums understand the climate and energy mitigation opportunities at their facilities.

• Technical assistance grants support the specification and budgeting of an identified efficiency project to allow for procurement and financing.

• Implementation grants provide partial seed funding for fully specified projects.

Monetary awards will be issued in proportion to the scope and timeline of the project. The Initiative is administered by Sustainable Museums, which has also coordinated cultural institution involvement in climate change action through the We Are Still In campaign.

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