Founded in 1981 by philanthropist Howard Gilman, the Howard Gilman Foundation was established to create a future where all artists and artistic disciplines in New York City can thrive. Through strategic grantmaking, we provide reliable support to performing arts organizations that make the city we call home so vibrant.
We envision a thriving and equitable performing arts ecosystem for the city of New York, with reliable and ample philanthropic support.
We envision a city where all performance traditions, disciplines, and conversations are cultivated, cared for, and revered.
We envision a landscape where everyone can access and afford this vibrant ecosystem, and where arts organizations connect deeply and authentically with community.
Howard Gilman believed in the power of the arts to transform lives. In honoring his legacy, the Foundation provides funding and support to New York City-based performing arts organizations that are reflective of our City’s vibrant cultural community.
The Life and Legacy of Howard Gilman
Howard Gilman was the third generation of his family to run the Gilman Paper Company, the largest privately-owned paper and building products company in the country. Howard’s interests, however, went well beyond those of paper.
Howard Gilman started his Foundation to build on the work of his father and grandfather and carry on the tradition of generosity and kindness that defined their lives. His Foundation truly represented him. Born out of a care for others and built by his personal relationships, the Foundation invested in a great number of organizations, including medical, social, educational, environmental, and artistic causes. Upon Howard’s passing in 1998, his legacy was entrusted to the Foundation, and his work was given a future.
After a period of stalled grantmaking in the 2000s, a diligent four-person board made the decision to re-think the Foundation’s goals. Reflecting on Howard’s belief that artists must be nurtured and their work must be made available and accessible for all, the board decided to pare down Mr. Gilman’s many global interests and identify just one program area in one location: the performing arts in New York City. This renewed focus allowed the Foundation to prioritize the city Howard loved and three artistic disciplines he held dear: dance, music, and theatre.
In order to deepen the Howard Gilman Foundation’s commitment to the performing arts, the decision was made to commit the bulk of grantmaking dollars for unrestricted general operating support. The Foundation’s grantmaking intentionally focuses on grantees’ holistic fiscal health, resulting in selective support for debt relief, cash reserves, artistic risk funds, working capital, and change capital.
Gilman now provides over $30M in grants annually to New York City-based performing arts organizations. The staff and board remain committed to grantmaking designed to encourage artistic freedom, authenticity, and work that is meaningful for and resonates with audiences. Gilman embraces both our legacy and the responsibility to consider how we fit into the wider performing arts community while striving to remain honest, kind, flexible, and generous.
We seek to support opportunities to participate in the unique, shared, joyful experience of live performance. Through our grantmaking, we want to foster the creation and performance of work that is defined by the artform itself. We acknowledge that we are part of a larger arts philanthropic community that is grappling with historic structural issues. We are committed to ongoing learning about the ways philanthropy functions and causes harm, particularly to people of color and organizations of color, and are working to undo this harm through our practices and priorities. We take our commitments seriously and aspire to play a notable role in the larger ecosystem.