Building on the legacy of its founder, the Robert Rauschenberg Foundation’s philanthropic investments aspire to a vibrant, equitable, and sustainable world through the power of creative problem solving.
The Philanthropic History and Charitable Interests of Robert Rauschenberg
Robert Rauschenberg realized the power of art to bring about social change. While his contribution to the history of American art is undisputed, his legacy cannot be fully understood without considering his remarkable philanthropic works. Even before he founded the Robert Rauschenberg Foundation (RRF) in 1990, the artist actively supported the people and issues that were meaningful to him. In 1970, Rauschenberg created Change Inc., to provide emergency grants for working artists. A decade later, he 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 could be used as currency to make the world a better place.
Like his art, Rauschenberg’s altruism was bold, innovative, and global in its reach. Throughout his career, Rauschenberg created artwork to increase knowledge about global issues and to raise money for many causes and organizations including Mt. Everest Nature Preserve, Earth Day, Tibetan Preservation, and United Nations peacekeeping efforts. In 1991, he published a lithograph, Last Turn, Your Turn, to raise public awareness about the Earth Summit taking place that year (also known as the United States Conference on Environment and Development). In the following year he collaborated with Transportation Displays Inc. to design bus billboards for New York City public transit to draw attention to environmental concerns. His screenprint Ozone, from the bus series, is now in the collection of the Museum of Modern Art, New York.
Initiated in 1984, the Rauschenberg Overseas Culture Interchange (ROCI) project became Rauschenberg’s major artistic and philanthropic preoccupation through 1991. Entirely funded by the artist himself, the goal of ROCI was to develop artwork around the world that inspired cross-border communication and promoted peace. Rauschenberg traveled around the world, primarily visiting countries where an open artistic dialogue had been suppressed. His goal was to work with local artists and artisans, as well as to share the art he made that was inspired by the various cultures he encountered. Wanting to promote ROCI’s powerful message of knowledge exchange and peace, especially in the nation’s capital, Rauschenberg donated works from each of the eleven ROCI locations to the National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.
In 1993, the Rauschenberg Foundation and The Lab School of Washington, D.C., initiated a program to share educational tools that integrate art into teaching methods for dyslexic students. Rauschenberg was dyslexic himself, and participated in the program's workshops by helping teachers understand how art could teach academic subjects while also promoting self-worth in their students. Today the foundation continues its collaboration with The Lab School and has expanded upon Rauschenberg’s longstanding commitment to arts integration by supporting additional art education partners.
Current Goals and Strategies
Today, through the transfer of assets from the artist’s trust and estate, the foundation has grown to include three core areas: 1) increasing public access to and scholarship of Rauschenberg’s artwork; 2) cultivating emerging and established artists through a residency program at the artist’s home and studio in Captiva, Florida; and 3) creating philanthropic initiatives that connect art, culture, and creativity with important issues such as education and climate change. While the board of directors and administrative staff are transitioning the foundation from an artist-led model toward a broader scope, it steadfastly continues Rauschenberg’s commitment to serving the public good and derives its vision, mission, and strategy from the artist’s longstanding belief that art has the power to change the world.