Rauschenberg Foundation Appoints Risë Wilson First-Ever Director of Philanthropy

Monday, September 16, 2013
Risë WilsonThe Robert Rauschenberg Foundation has announced the appointment of Risë Wilson as their first-ever Director of Philanthropy. Wilson will join the senior staff of the Foundation and oversee all of its philanthropic programs, which support the Foundation’s mission of creating positive social change through the support of both arts-focused and issue-based work. Wilson will also oversee the use of the Foundation’s Project Space (located in Chelsea) as a complement to its grantmaking based on a number of successful pilot programs led by RRF grantees.
Wilson has worked in the field of arts and culture for the past 15 years. Her most recent post before her appointment to the Robert Rauschenberg Foundation was Program Director for LINC, a 10-year initiative created to strengthen the support structure for individual artists. Wilson was hired to launch their Space for Change program — a suite of grants, technical assistance and network-building opportunities for small and mid-sized arts organizations creating cultural facilities with significant benefits to both artists and communities. Wilson has also served as a consultant in the Media, Arts and Culture unit of the Ford Foundation.
Before entering philanthropy, Wilson founded The Laundromat Project, an award winning nonprofit that mounts art programming in area laundromats and other de facto public spaces. Its programs are designed to amplify the creativity that already exists within communities by using arts and culture to build networks among neighbors, solve problems and strengthen a sense of ownership by a neighborhood’s residents. The organization makes a particular commitment to operating in communities of color, as well as communities living on low incomes.  
“We chose Risë because she directly represents the values we have defined for the Foundation — she is a fearless, risk-taking program leader, and she understands how culture and creativity can be applied to achieve positive social change,” said Christy MacLear, Executive Director of the Robert Rauschenberg Foundation. “Her uncommon experience has given her the unique ability to not only strategically advance the pilot programs we have been developing to fulfill Bob’s philanthropic vision but also shape new ways for how philanthropy can be pursued.”
Part of Wilson’s role will be to refine the strategy and scope of RRF’s philanthropic activities, with a particular concern for how to best support the range of work that operates at the intersection of artistic practice and social change. She will also work to establish new guidelines that open up the Foundation’s philanthropic programs to a wider range of organizations both within and outside of the art sector. The Foundation plans to sustain a national reach in its grantmaking, adding to a corps of past grantees that include Trisha Brown Dance Company (NYC), Bemis Center for Contemporary Arts (Omaha) and the Tanzania Visual Literacy Project of Duke University (Durham).
“Robert Rauschenberg’s legacy is one of innovation, experimentation and generosity,” said Wilson. “I’m excited to join the Foundation at such a critical moment in its evolution and to be part of a team committed to leveraging both his artistic practice and his philanthropic values in order to shape a bold new vision for how art can change the world.”
As one of her first assignments, Wilson will partner with Ballroom Marfa and the Public Concern Foundation to pilot a citywide conversation on climate change. Marfa Dialogues/NY, one of the Foundation’s signature initiatives for 2013, is a two-month series of public programs, panels, performances and events that examine climate change through the lens of culture — combining science, activism and artistic practice. Marfa Dialogues/NY builds on Climate 13, an RRF-sponsored exhibition on climate change organized by Ballroom Marfa in 2012, and reflects the Robert Rauschenberg Foundation’s interest in a sustained relationship with its grantees, as well as a willingness to function as partners in experimenting with new ideas. Marfa Dialogues/NY will debut in New York City this October.
Wilson will also lead philanthropic activities that range from providing unrestricted operating capital to emerging arts organizations in underrepresented areas of the U.S. through the Foundation’s SEED program, to commissioning world-class artists to develop projects that heighten awareness of crucial humanitarian issues across the globe in its recently launched Artist as Activist program.
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