Paul Allen’s Foundation Puts $10M Toward Arts and Culture in Washington

The grants will help a sector still struggling against economic instability and the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Group of children dance onstage in costumes
Seattle Opera’s youth opera project performs Rootabaga Country. Photo: Sunny Martini

The philanthropic legacy of Paul Allen lives on through the foundation established by the Microsoft (MSFT) co-founder in 1988, and now, more than 800 arts and culture nonprofits across Washington, Allen’s home state, are set to receive a total of $10 million in grants from his eponymous foundation.

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“From the Olympics to the Palouse, every corner of our state is brimming with diverse and rich cultural activity, and we are incredibly heartened by the extensive reach and continued impact of this program,” said Lara Littlefield, the Paul G. Allen Foundation’s executive director of partnerships and programs, in a statement. Its most recent round of grants ranges from $2,500 to $25,000 and follows $10 million given last year to Washington arts and culture organizations during the pilot edition of the Community Accelerator Grant program, which is funded by the foundation and administered by the Seattle nonprofit ArtsFund.

The grant program was created to aid sectors that saw audiences, workforces and revenues negatively impacted by the pandemic and economic inflation. The most recent round of grantees cited programmatic funding as a top need, followed by funds for salaries and labor, rent, mortgage and facility upgrades, and communications and marketing.

Two women in Mariachi outfits performing outdoors
Mariachi Noroeste performs at Icicle Creek Center for the Arts. Photo: Robert Inn/Courtesy Icicle Creek Center for the Arts

This year’s recipients of Community Accelerator Grant funds include the Seattle Opera, Icicle Creek Center for the Arts, Spokane International Film Festival, Ballyhoo Theatre and Indigenous Performance Productions. The various organizations are spread across thirty-seven counties in Washington and represent disciplines like music, cultural heritage, theater and visual arts. Around 70 percent of grantees reported annual budgets of less than $500,000, according to the Paul G. Allen Foundation.

Paul Allen’s wide-ranging philanthropy

Co-founded by Allen and his sister Jody, the Paul G. Allen Foundation has long invested in arts and culture across the Pacific Northwest with an emphasis on underserved populations and youth initiatives. Allen, who died in 2018, was an avid patron and collector of art—his holdings spanning 500 years sold for more than $1.6 billion in 2022 at a Christie’s auction that stands as the largest private collection sale in history. The late billionaire also founded cultural initiatives like the Seattle Art Fair and Seattle’s Museum of Pop Culture, which recently received thousands of cultural artifacts—including musical instruments, movie props and memorabilia owned by David Bowie and Prince—from Allen’s estate.

Allen, who had an estimated net worth of $20.3 billion at the time of his death, donated more than $2.6 billion to initiatives in the arts, wildlife conservation and medical research during his lifetime. He gave $500 million to the Allen Institute for Brain Science, which he founded in 2003 in Seattle to catalyze brain research, and $125 million to establish the Allen Institute for Artificial Intelligence in 2018. The philanthropist’s other major contributions included separate $100 million gifts to support the fight against Ebola, aiding the Allen Institute for Cell Science and funding the bioscience research initiative Allen Frontiers Group.

Paul Allen’s Foundation Puts $10M Toward Arts and Culture in Washington