arts

The new program will promote innovation across visual and performing arts at Penn.

Photo: Tiffany Pham / The Daily Pennsylvanian

Penn announced Tuesday a $15 million donation for the creation of the Sachs Arts Innovation Program.

The gift came from 1967 Wharton graduate Keith L. Sachs and 1969 College graduate Katherine Sachs, who have a long track record in donating to the arts at Penn. This latest donation represents the single largest donation across the arts in the school’s history, according to a press release from Penn News.

The donation will go towards building the Sachs Arts Innovation Hub, which will be located in the Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts, as well as supporting a range of arts-related projects and programs across the University.

The Sachs have previously donated to the Institute of Contemporary Art, the Department of History of Art in the School of Arts & Sciences and the Department of Fine Arts in the School of Design. Keith Sachs cited a need to integrate overall support for the arts across Penn as the main driver behind his and his wife’s donation.

“Those departments that we supported were all anxious to have us increase our giving to one or the other of them,” he said. “We decided that we would really like to do something that was more overarching and all-encompassing than just to continue to support individual departments or organizations.”

The Sachs said it took them around a year and a half from the genesis of the idea of the donation to the announcement on Tuesday in order to fully develop the program.

However, the couple has been working much longer to bring awareness and appreciation for art into the community. Keith Sachs, the former CEO of Saxco International, sits on the Philadelphia Museum of Art’s Board of Trustees, while Katherine Sachs is a member of the University’s Design Review Committee and the ICA Board of Overseers.

“Trying to weave the arts into the fabric of the University as a whole, trying to raise the visibility of the importance of arts in our lives, has been something I’ve been working on for almost 20 years,” Katherine Sachs said.

According to the University press release, the Sachs Program will seek to expand “sustainable curricular innovation in the arts across the University, including grants to develop courses, workshops, master classes and other learning opportunities.”

“Art is really complex thought. Art expands the imagination,” Katherine Sachs said. “And if you think about how art affects leadership, you would want someone’s imagination to be greater or for them to be very aware of other people’s perspectives. A great leader would have a great understanding of people from different cultures. And the more you understand that, absolutely the better leader you can be.”

The program’s long term vision also aspires to impact the United States’ position in the world on “a very broad basis,” Keith Sachs added, as well as bring Penn into the fold of national innovation.

“What we have, what we see everyday, are companies that outsource,” he said. “What the United States potentially has going for it is our ability to innovate. My hope would be that this [program’s] creativity would eventually have an impact on the whole country’s well-being. If Penn could be at the forefront of that, I think that would be terrific.”

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