The legacy is the largest bequest ever given to the Cape Cod Foundation, which will manage and distribute the money. The Cape Cod Center for the Arts campus will receive $388,000 in endowment funds.
A surprise $6.4 million bequest from an anonymous arts patron is expected to give area cultural groups a much-needed infusion of money early next year and for decades into the future.
The legacy is the single largest bequest ever given to the South Yarmouth-based Cape Cod Foundation, which will manage and distribute the funds as directed. The total will be divided into four endowments, and a portion — historically, 3.5% to 5% of the balance — will be distributed every year “into perpetuity,” Kristin O’Malley, foundation president and CEO, said Monday.
The foundation’s focus over the past seven months has been human-service needs, but said: “I feel fortunate we’re going to have this resource. The arts and cultural community has been so impacted by the pandemic and will continue to be.”
Last week, the Americans for the Arts organization reported the pandemic’s impact on nonprofit arts and cultural organizations nationally to be an estimated $14 billion in losses to date, with 59% of organizations still closed and 40% with no date set for reopening. Nationally, 63% of artists and others in creative jobs have become fully unemployed since March, the study said.
While unable to identify the donor due to the terms of the bequest, O’Malley confirmed that the bequest was made by a woman with longtime Cape Cod connections, who had been living on the Cape at the time of her death and who was “very ingrained in the arts and cultural community here.”
The largest portion of the bequest, $4.5 million, is earmarked for an endowment for the visual arts, with foundation officials given discretion on how to distribute the annual yield. O’Malley is consulting with area groups, including the Arts Foundation of Cape Cod, on how best to distribute what is expected — at the current 4.25% rate — to be more than $190,000 in grants in early 2021.
“We want to hear what the needs are, immediate and longer-term needs,” she said. “We know there’s a need for immediate access to funding … (but) want to be as thoughtful and strategic as possible.”
The rest of the money, $1.5 million, will create an endowment for grants to “support community life on Cape Cod … now and for years to come,” O’Malley said. Such flexibility in resources to respond to changing needs is welcome, she said, considering the uncertain times facing Cape Codders during and beyond the pandemic.
The only named organizations in the bequest were two parts of the Cape Cod Center for the Arts campus in Dennis: a $200,000 endowment to help maintain the building and grounds at the Cape Playhouse, which had to cancel its summer season, and a $188,000 endowment to aid with general operating expenses at Cape Cod Museum of Art, which reopened in July with limited admission and programs. The theater’s expected $8,500 disbursement in 2021 will go toward the imminent renovation and winterization project already underwritten by the town of Dennis and the Mass Cultural Council, according to consulting producer Joe Grandy.
The extra help for now and in the future “is wonderful, wonderful news,” he said. “We’re always so grateful when people consider the playhouse in their planned giving.”
Focusing such a large donation on culture is especially important this year, Grandy said, when the arts are not only in trouble, but “people are realizing the arts make your life a little bit lighter and a little bit more enjoyable.”