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Wealth effects

"Wealth effects" Continued...

Issue: "Ready or not, here we go," March 28, 2009

Q: What have you learned about grantmaking?

That you can kill something with money. Howard gave a big grant early on to a prison ministry and a year later he cut the grant and it went out of business because it counted on him. So he learned you just don't do that. Also, you can't make people do for money what they don't want to do anyway. If you see things you think need to be done in the world, you look around to find the people who share that vision and have the skills, ability, and drive to do those things, and come alongside them. Those have been our most successful grants, and our blessings.

Q: What's been the hardest thing for you?

My father said I had champagne tastes on a beer budget, which for a person who didn't drink was an interesting metaphor. The hardest thing has been learning to be frugal with a lot. Managing money has always been hard for me, but not for my husband-he lived very frugally before he met me. At first it was hard for me because I wasn't working or earning the money, and so I didn't know how I was supposed to spend it.

Q: What art projects have you been involved with that have pleased you the most?

We funded a Caravaggio show three years ago at the National Gallery of Art in London that was voted the best show of the year in Great Britain and one of the top shows in the world that year. About 240,000 people went to that show, which was 18 images and all but three of them were profound Christian images. They're the paintings of a man who's facing himself and facing God and painting out the terror that he felt. People stood in front of them for 20 or 30 minutes at a time.

Q: You now chair the board of the Museum of Biblical Art-MOBIA-in New York City.

Most of the art of the West has been inspired by religious sentiments of one kind or another and far and away the largest influence has been Christian. MOBIA's goal is to be able to put biblical images in their context and to interpret them in light of what they mean, not just how they look or their formal characteristics. I'm really excited about that.

Q: As a Christian, do you look at art differently than others do?

Art interpretation for the past 100 years or more has focused on the formal qualities of art-line, color, structure, technique. More recently, it has become theory-driven. Neither approach looks at the artwork from the point of view of its context or its purpose. And, as we become more and more religiously illiterate, more and more people don't already know the stories in the paintings or sculptures. We no longer know the visual language. MOBIA wants to do something about that.

Q: And you want to do something about religious illiteracy in journalism?

That's the point of Blind Spot. It's the fulfillment of a dream I've had since I was a reporter.

Marvin Olasky
Marvin Olasky

Marvin is editor in chief of WORLD News Group and the author of more than 20 books, including The Tragedy of American Compassion. Follow Marvin on Twitter @MarvinOlasky.

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