Written by cffmc
Friday, 09 December 2011
Judy Hayner of the Muskegon Museum of Art shared the thoughts below at one of our recent events. And while her message certainly related to the art museum, she did a great job of promoting the message of generosity and philanthropy! Read on...
By Judy Hayner
The gift of inspiration is no small matter. Just look at yourselves and at each other...you are here today because you believe in the gift of inspiration.
The Muskegon Museum of Art is a gift of inspiration. One hundred years ago, construction was on pace to complete a pioneer on the American art museum frontier, that being the Hackley Art Gallery, which, in 1912, was the first and only building in the United States erected purposely as an art museum in an American city of less than 30,000 inhabitants.
Isn’t that remarkable? How did that happen?
Andrew Carnegie was a gift of inspiration…a gift of inspiration to Charles Hackley and to us. Carnegie published in June of 1889 a short essay entitled The Gospel of Wealth...I recommend that you take the time to read it.
However, here, I would like to share with you a few excerpts from that essay, because I believe that herein lies the tale.
According to Carnegie:
The problem of our age is the proper administration of wealth …
What is the proper mode of administering wealth after the laws upon which civilization is founded have thrown it into the hands of the few?…
There are but three modes in which surplus wealth can be disposed of. It can be left to the families of the decedents; or it can be bequeathed for public purposes; or finally, it can be administered by its possessors during their lives.
Carnegie goes on to discuss these three modes. He says:
The first (of leaving estates to the children) is the most injudicious. There are instances of millionaires’ sons unspoiled by wealth, who, being rich, still perform great services to the community. Such are the very salt of the earth, but unfortunately, they are rare. …
Looking at the usual result of enormous sums conferred upon legatees, the thoughtful man must shortly say “I would as soon leave to my heirs a curse as the almighty dollar,” and admit to himself that it is not the welfare of the children but family pride which inspires these legacies.
(Carnegie was a firm believer in estate taxes, by the way!)
Continuing with Carnegie:
As to the second mode, that of leaving wealth at death for public uses, it may be said that this is only a means for the disposal of wealth, provided a person is content to wait until he is dead before he becomes of much good in the world….
Carnegie goes on to say…
…the cases are not few in which the real object sought by the testator is not attained….and indeed…men who leave vast sums in this way may fairly be thought men who would not have left it at all had they been able to take it with them.
There remains then only one mode of using great fortunes…and that is…to consider all surplus revenues which come to one of hard work simply as trust funds, which the wealthy person is called upon to administer in the manner which is best calculated to produce the most beneficial results for the community---persons of wealth becoming the mere trustee and agent for the greater good.
Carnegie goes on to suggest…
…the best means of benefiting the community is to place within its reach the ladders upon which the aspiring can rise: free libraries, parks and means of recreation, by which we are helped in body and mind; works of art, certain to give pleasure and improve the public taste; and public institutions of various kinds, which will improve the general condition of the people.
Sound familiar? Many of us here in Muskegon think that Charles read that essay. Charles, we like to think, made a list. In an interview, Charles Hackley has been quoted as saying:
…a rich man to a great extent owes his fortune to the public. He makes money largely through the labor of his employees.....Moreover, I believe that it should be expended during the lifetime of the donor, so that he can see that his benefactions do not miscarry and are according to his intent....To a certain extent, I agree with Mr. Carnegie ....that it is a crime to die rich.
Among the many things on Hackley’s list was an art museum. However, the fates intervened, and in February 1905, before he could make this happen, Charles Hackley died. However, he did not die without creating his own gift of inspiration. Charles Hackley left to the Board of Education for Muskegon Public Schools an expendable trust fund of $150,000 to buy pictures of the best kind.
Because of that gift, the Board of Education was inspired to build that which Charles might have done had he lived long enough…an art gallery in which they could exhibit pictures of the best kind…
To share with you a quote from a new book entitled Pictures of the Best Kind: the First One Hundred Years on our history, the story of the Muskegon Museum of Art’s first century, researched and written by our own Marilyn Andersen, scheduled for publication June of 2012:
Under clear summer skies on Friday, June 21, 1912, the Muskegon Board of Education formally ushered the city’s leaders, citizens, and guests through the newly completed Hackley Art Gallery’s large double doors. As they gathered at two-thirty that afternoon, the glass roof over the Inaugural Exhibition admitted no shadow on the chosen paintings.
The Muskegon Museum of Art is a gift of inspiration...Andrew Carnegie inspired Charles Hackley. Charles Hackley inspired an entire community on so many fronts.
We hope, as we begin our 100th year, that we inspire you.