Defining community need through the lens of the elite : a history of the Indianapolis Foundation and its funding of the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra, 1893-1984
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This history investigates the beginnings of community foundations in general and the creation of the Indianapolis Foundation specifically and its eventual funding of the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra. My findings reveal that, contrary to previous histories that have been written, the creation of community foundations was not driven by benevolence but by changes in federal and state banking laws starting in 1913 that allowed banks to have trust departments that broke the monopoly that trust companies had long enjoyed. In response, trust company executives chartered community trusts to publicly position themselves as benevolent, community-minded businessmen. This distinguished them as trustworthy compared to the greedy bankers of the day, which helped trust companies gain trust customers. Community trusts were responsible for identifying and disbursing funds to deserving beneficiaries, thereby relieving trust companies of a costly and time consuming burden. Even more important, the trust companies retained control over the community trusts by appointing surrogate board members. In addition, none of the trust companies that chartered the Indianapolis Foundation donated their own money, yet appeared charitable. All of these factors made community foundations a very lucrative arrangement. Funding the areas of arts and culture was not designated in the Indianapolis Foundation’s original purpose statement, yet the Indiana State Symphony Society was funded at the height of the Great Depression while many Indianapolis citizens went hungry. The love of music played a very small part in efforts by the wealthy elite to garner support from the Indianapolis Foundation for the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra. The public justifications for funding the symphony began with giving psychological relief to the citizens of Indianapolis from the pressures of the Great Depression, to the need of employment for musicians, then the importance of musical education of children, expanding to the importance of the symphony to the city’s reputation, and finally, in the 1980s, the symphony as a community asset that helped rejuvenate downtown Indianapolis. However, the real reason for funding was that the wealthy elite wanted the symphony to use as a flattering cultural institution that would elevate their social status and attract fellow elites and businesses to Indianapolis.