Philanthropic History

Robert Rauschenberg looked at his art as a vehicle for social change. His legacy is best understood when you combine his artistic genius and resulting works with his philanthropic spirit and impact on positive change. One never existed without the other. Both his art and philanthropy had the defining characteristics of being bold, pattern-breaking, collaborative and global―always forging entirely new territory. His continuous desire to pioneer high-impact collaborations is what has left an indelible mark on the history of art and philanthropy.

Even before the founding of the Robert Rauschenberg Foundation (RRF), Rauschenberg actively supported people and issues that moved him. In the 1980s Rauschenberg organized a group of peers to donate artwork to nearby hospitals in exchange for healthcare for New York artists in need. This entrepreneurial effort perfectly illustrated his belief that art is not just a means of expressing worldviews; art can also be currency to make the world a better place and to help create systems of support for those in need. In short order, Rauschenberg created Change, Inc., a 501(c)(3) organization that provides emergency grants to artists regardless of artistic skill. Change continues to issue grants of $1,000 or less to help stem emergencies for practicing artists.

In the 1980s, Rauschenberg also initiated the Rauschenberg Overseas Culture Interchange (ROCI). The goal of this eight-year effort was to develop artwork in countries around the world, instigate cross-border communication, and promote peace-keeping. Rauschenberg traveled across the globe, creating artwork in Asia, Central America, South America and Europe. Work was donated to the National Gallery of Art and the program remains an inspiration for artists to this day.

The RRF was formed in 1990 to benefit and promote awareness of the causes and groups close to the heart of its founder. All projects at that time were "hands-on, collaborative efforts; no strictly monetary grants were awarded." Activities included:

Educational Programs
In 1993, RRF and The Lab School of Washington initiated a program to share educational tools, integrating art into teaching methods for dyslexic students. Rauschenberg, a dyslexic, participated in the program's workshops, helping teachers understand how art could enhance academic skills and promote self-worth in their students. RRF continues to support this program.

Environmental And Humanitarian Prints And Campaigns
Throughout his long life Rauschenberg created artwork to increase awareness of global issues and to raise money for causes and organizations, including Mt. Everest Nature Preserve; Earth Day; AIDS research and treatment; Natural Resources Defense Council; Tibetan Preservation; and United Nations supported efforts in population control and peacekeeping. Rauschenberg's artistic-awareness endeavors grew in ambition, and eventually expanded to a national campaign in collaboration with Transportation Displays Inc. and Earth Pledge, whereby original Rauschenberg designed artwork appeared on buses and billboards across the United States to bring awareness to dire causes, such as ozone depletion. This revolutionary work is now held in the collection of New York's Museum of Modern Art.

Over time, RRF extended its scope to grant-making and providing direct assistance for artistic collaborations. Grants have been made to organizations exemplifying artistic innovation and collaboration, including Merce Cunningham Dance Company and Trisha Brown Dance Company. Likewise, the foundation issued preservation grants and undertook activities to restore the films of E.A.T., as well as historic Rauschenberg-designed dance costumes, set artifacts, and backdrops.

Today, RRF is responsible for converting all of the assets from Rauschenberg's life into his foundation. Together, our board of directors and administrative staff are redefining the scope of the foundation's activities, transitioning from a model that was artist-led toward one serving the public good. With a strong vision, mission, and strategy―supported by values that link our endeavors to the very essence and desires of Robert Rauschenberg―we intend to have a lasting impact demonstrating how art can change the world.