Arts Funder Virtual Roundtable: Huong Vu

Huong Vu, The Boeing Company

Title: Community Investor — Arts, Culture and Civic Engagement
Geographic scope: Puget Sound region, Washington
2015 arts funding: $2.8M
Staffing: 10 FTE (Northwest giving team — nine Washington, one Oregon)

How has your career prepared you for your current role?

For the past two decades, I’ve been a philanthropy manager and arts curator. I have directly managed more than $95 million in philanthropic investments for foundation, corporate giving and national regranting programs. These investments included programming, arts education, capital campaigns, capacity building, technology, creative placemaking, economic development and training grants. I also serve as adjunct faculty at Seattle University in the MFA Arts Leadership Program, teaching advanced fundraising. These roles have provided a thorough working knowledge of the nonprofit sector, the key players, aesthetics, practices and field issues.

What are the most important arts and culture challenges you see in your geographic funding area?

We're in another “building boom” — there are about $800 million of capital projects happening right now in the Puget Sound arts community.  This, along with aggressive growth, affordability, displacement and equity in the region are top of mind concerns for the cultural community.

What are your core strategies for funding arts and culture?

Boeing provides arts education, programming, change capital and systems change grants. In 2015, Boeing and its employees contributed more than $56 million to the community: $2.8 million to arts and culture, along with grants and gifts to civic engagement, early learning, K-12 education, environment, and health and human services in Washington state.  

With equity in grantmaking as context, how are you working to support more diverse arts and culture organizations?

I provide one-on-one technical training, coaching and mentoring for smaller groups; I also refer them to funding and community networks. I’m generally a champion and translator for communities of color.

Boeing's arts and culture funding includes support for the Seattle Symphony.

What’s been a big success in the arts and culture space for your organization?

Boeing gave more than $1 million to arts education in 2015. We have many talented partners empowering young people through the traditional art forms such as music, dance, theater and literature — as well as newer technologies such as film, animation, coding and gaming.

What’s the biggest arts and culture opportunity or challenge your organization is tackling right now?

The biggest challenge is on-going financial sustainability. The biggest opportunity is the changing demographics of the Puget Sound and the emergent communities, aesthetics and practices.

What’s one more question we should ask you and how would you answer it?

Q: Do you think (seven year) term-limits are good for program officers?
A: Yes, it keeps philanthropy fresh with new ideas.  

Huong Vu is a community investor at The Boeing Company, joining us this month for our virtual roundtable with arts funders.