A friend called my attention to an editorial in today’s Globe, noting a Lowell connection. Whatever your take on the editorial about the history of philanthropy for arts, culture, education and other civic charity in Boston and beyond, it was nice to have the name of the Behrakis family noted among the 25,000 contributors who raised over $500 million for the MFA. The Behrakis family’s charitable largesse is well-known in the Lowell/Greater Lowell community, in the Greek cultural and religious communities- locally and nationally, in higher education and more. The editorial notes the giving style and intent of the Brahmins of the past and the civic and personal philanthropy of today’s donors.
More than 25,000 people and businesses contributed to raise $504 million, of which $345 million went to the new wing. With its 53 galleries of differing shapes and sizes, the Art of the Americas wing manages to feel intimate, but its impact on Boston’s premier museum is grand. It stands as a statement that even institutions whose greatest treasures were amassed decades ago can grow in size and spirit. The same can be said of the city around it, where titans like Bank of America and State Street Bank, and families with names as varied as Linde, Shapiro, Alfond, Behrakis, and Logie — all of whom gave more than $10 million — have taken on the fundraising role once played by the old Brahmins of Beacon Hill.
Boston’s civic institutions, including the MFA, are the physical expression of the city’s pride. The library, museum, and symphony arose in part through the determination of individual Bostonians that their city should be second to none in the world. The names of those great patrons, from George Ticknor to Henry Lee Higginson, are distant echoes, but their pride is visible every day on the streets of the city. The same will be true of those who support today’s civic improvements.
Agree or not with the editorial, philanthropy is alive in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts – though different in this economy. These donors in their generosity support the over 35,000 entities in the state’s non-profit sector. This sector – although challenged – represents an important part of the state’s economy whether through the money given away or expended, the services provided or the large workforce.
Read the full Globe editorial – “21st-century public spirit” here.