The Studio Museum in Harlem, New York (via Wikimedia Commons)

El Museo del Barrio, Studio Museum in Harlem, and the Museum of Chinese in America are some of the dozens of art institutions that received grants from MacKenzie Scott, a writer and former spouse of Amazon founder Jeff Bezos. After her divorce from the billionaire in 2019, Scott pledged to distribute her vast wealth to social causes “until the safe is empty.”

Scott received a 4% stake in Amazon after the separation, which has continued to climb in value during the pandemic, according to Forbes. After giving about $6 billion to more than 500 nonprofit organizations over the past year, Scott announced another round of grants yesterday, June 16,  worth a combined $2.7 billion. The grants will be distributed to 286 organizations including universities, art organizations, and nonprofits that work to fight against racial injustice and domestic violence.

Favoring smaller arts organizations that are often overlooked by donors, Scott wrote that the chosen groups “can strengthen communities by transforming spaces, fostering empathy, reflecting community identity, advancing economic mobility, improving academic outcomes, lowering crime rates, and improving mental health.”

One of the biggest donations went to the California Community Foundation, which received $20 million to support small and mid-size arts organizations in the Los Angles area. El Museo del Barrio in Harlem, New York, received $8 million, the largest single gift received in the museum’s history. The nearby Dance Theater of Harlem received $10 million, and the Museum of Chinese American downtown, which is still recovering from a devastating fire that damaged its archives last year, received $5 million. The nonprofit Souls Grown Deep, which supports Black artists in the South, received $2 million.

Other beneficiaries include the Laundromat Project in Brooklyn, Museo de Arte de Puerto Rico, and San Francisco’s Yerba Buena Center for the Arts (YBCA). (See the full list of receiving organizations here).

In a post on the Medium yesterday, Scott reflected on her wealth, writing that together with her advisors and current spouse Dan Jewett, she’s attempting to “give away a fortune that was enabled by systems in need of change.” 

“In this effort, we are governed by a humbling belief that it would be better if disproportionate wealth were not concentrated in a small number of hands, and that the solutions are best designed and implemented by others,” she wrote.

Hakim Bishara is a Senior Editor at Hyperallergic. He is also a co-director at Soloway Gallery, an artist-run space in Brooklyn. Bishara is a recipient of the 2019 Andy Warhol Foundation and Creative Capital...