Following are two letters AAMD members submitted to The New York Times in response to the opinion piece “Good Charity, Bad Charity” by Peter Singer. Although The New York Times did not publish these letters we strongly believe in their messages about the value of museums as charitable organizations. The responses to “Good Charity, Bad Charity” that The New York Times did publish are available here.
Apropos "Good Charity, Bad Charity," we would argue that without philanthropic largesse toward the arts, the world’s cultural institutions would perish, and a significant aspect of what makes life worthwhile would expire with them. Philanthropy is necessary to support the whole fabric of human existence, without one area precluding another. At Yale we work actively across disciplinary bounds, and our museum collections are considered precious assets in the training of medical professionals. The Yale Center for British Art and the Schools of Medicine and Nursing collaborate to improve students’ observational and interpretive skills using original works of art. Students learn to analyze the meaning of their observations accurately, and they come to appreciate that focused observation also increases clear communication between medical practitioners and patients. Similar classes in the galleries are appreciated by socially and cognitively other-abled adults, adults in transition programs, and children on the autism spectrum and their families.
Director, Yale Center for British Art
Ensign Professor of Medicine, Dean of the Yale School of Medicine
New Haven, CT, Aug. 15, 2013
The opinion piece “Good Charity, Bad Charity” (8.11.13) is bad reasoning! The piece fundamentally mischaracterizes the work of art museums. My museum’s mission is to offer an essential community resource that sustains, enriches, empowers, and inspires. It has over 60 partnerships with community groups such as Kuumba Charter School, the Latin American Community Center, the Girl Scouts and many other agencies. I have met personally with their leaders to ask them how the museum can meet their needs. They have responded unanimously that while those they serve need many basic services, they also need the creative outlet and emotional oasis that only an art museum such as the Delaware Art Museum can provide. Supporting human needs and supporting the arts are not mutually exclusive enterprises. A civilized society needs both.
Executive Director, Delaware Art Museum
Wilmington, DE, Aug. 13, 2013