Billionaire Todd Graves Hopes to Use Art to Fuel Infrastructure Improvements

Graves plans to display and then donate a group of Carlos Diniz drawings depicting the 1988 renovation of D.C.'s Union Station.

Black and white sketch of bustling train station
The drawings were made by architectural illustrator Carlos Diniz. Family of Carlos Diniz/Carlos Diniz Archive

Todd Graves, founder of the Raising Cane’s restaurant franchise, is hoping an art exhibition will help spur on the long-awaited renovation of Union Station in Washington, D.C.

A proposed $10 billion redevelopment would be the train station’s first major facelift in more than three decades. With an upcoming display of illustrations detailing its last major renovation in the 1980s, Graves hopes to remind the city of the station’s potential.

Currently on display at Raising Cane’s Union Station location, the six drawings were made by Carlos Diniz, one of the most iconic architectural illustrators of the 20th century. Graves, who acquired a dozen of Diniz’s illustrations of the station for around $200,000, will donate the entire batch to a yet-to-be-announced museum in Washington, D.C., later this year.

The drawings helped raise approval and funding for the station’s 1988 refurbishment, according to Fraser Scott of A Gallery, who represents the Carlos Diniz Estate. “We join Todd Graves in his hopes that by displaying Carlos’ drawings inside Union Station people again can see the ideal vision of the architects, what a special building they have, and that in some small way it might help in contributing to the D.C. authorities speeding up the long-planned 21st-century renovations to again achieve that once dreamed of vision,” said Scott in a statement.

Black and white sketch of bustling train station
The illustrations will be donated to a local museum in the next ten months. Family of Carlos Diniz/Carlos Diniz Archive

Who was Carlos Diniz?  

Diniz, who died in 2001, was known for his large-scale architectural drawings that supported projects like London’s Canary Wharf and the New Orleans waterfront. He was one of the few outside illustrators ever hired by the Walt Disney Company, working with the company on Epcot Center at Disney World, Tokyo Disney and Disney’s California Adventure. And his drawings of New York’s World Trade Center notably helped the project receive approval and funding.

Graves isn’t the first billionaire arts patron to aid in keeping Diniz’s legacy alive. In 2021, investor Mark Cuban acquired a set of the illustrator’s drawings of the World Trade Center and subsequently donated them to the Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum.

Graves, who has an estimated net worth of $7.4 billion and is the wealthiest person in his home state of Louisiana, is also an avid collector of historical objects and memorabilia. In 2018, he acquired the hearse that carried Martin Luther King Jr., which he has loaned out to exhibitions across the United States. Two years prior, he loaned a 66-million-year-old triceratops skull to the Louisiana Arts and Science Museum.

Billionaire Todd Graves Hopes to Use Art to Fuel Infrastructure Improvements