About Us

At the Fund for the Arts, we believe that art is a right, not a privilege, because art is a fundamental expression of the human condition.

Founded in 1949, the Fund for the Arts (FFTA) is one of the two oldest United Arts Funds in the country.  FFTA supports, promotes and develops arts, artists, and arts organizations to help create a healthy and vibrant community for all. Since our founding we have raised over a quarter billion dollars that have directly and indirectly benefitted millions of people and scores of organizations in our community.


The community we want to live in


We envision a healthy and vibrant community where:

everyone embraces the art that exists in our lives every day,

everyone contributes to the well-being of our arts community, and it is understood that

everyone belongs to the arts community


How we create and sustain that community


We contribute to the overall health and well-being of our community by:

generating resources for, investing in, and supporting our local arts, artists, and arts organizations.


Guiding principles for our organizational community


Equity – Listen to, engage with, invest in, and support historically excluded individuals, groups, and communities

Belonging – Create a safe and welcoming environment for engagement where an invitation is not required

Accountability – Be who we say we are and do what we say we will do for each other and the community we support

Stewardship – Manage the resources that have been entrusted to us equitably and responsibly

Gratitude – Value one another and the community we support

Storytelling – Tell the stories of arts, artists, and arts organizations in our community however, whenever, and to whomever we can.

Learning – Continue to be curious and seek opportunities to expand our knowledge and understanding


The specific work we do in the community 


We Generate Resources for arts, artists, and arts organizations in our community

We Invest in arts, artists, and arts organizations in our community

We Support arts, artists, and arts organizations in our community

Our History

Fund for the Arts is one of the oldest united arts funds in the country and has raised more than $200 million since its establishment in 1949. In 2016, the Fund for the Arts awarded 563 grants to schools and community organizations throughout the region to provide financing for arts experiences and administrative support. Fund sponsored activities include: EVERY CHILD Arts Education Initiative, 5×5, Cultural Partner Education Programs, PNC/Fund for the Arts Teacher Arts Grants, School’s Out = Art’s In!, Arts for Kosair Kids®, Delta Dental Making Smiles Happen® Arts in Education Initiative, Anthem Healthy Living Through the Arts, Arts Showcase and Campaign Kickoff, NeXt!, Scholastic Arts Awards, Allan Cowen Innovation Fund for Advancement of the Arts, James Welch Sr. Arts Leadership Award, Whittenberg Young Artist Scholarships, Barbara Sexton Smith Education Enhancement Fund and Yum! Brands, Inc./Fund for the Arts Family Series.

In addition to operating the only community-wide fundraising effort for the arts, a sister organization of the Fund for the Arts, FFTA Properties, Inc., owns and manages ArtSpace. Located at 323 West Broadway, ArtSpace is a mixed-use development that includes the Brown Theatre, as well as a non-profit business incubator, arts administrative offices, classrooms, meeting spaces, a rehearsal hall and costume shop. In 1998, in a separate campaign, the Fund raised over $4 million to restore the historic Brown Theatre, which was deeded to the Fund in 1997. The Fund also acquired the adjacent building, now the Fifth Third Conference Center, which serves as an adjunct to the theatre. The theatre re-opened in October 1998, and was renamed in honor of arts supporter and former chief executive of Brown-Forman, W. L. Lyons Brown, Sr. The Brown Theatre is operated by the Kentucky Center for the Performing Arts. The ArtSpace lobby and floors one through eight were donated to the Fund for the Arts on December 27, 2006 by members of the Brown Office Building LLC who retained ownership of floors nine and ten for development as residential condominiums. In 2013 the Fund for the Arts recognized community philanthropist, Owsley Brown II, by naming the address from 315-323, which consists of ArtSpace, Bank of Louisville Community Room, Hilliard Lyons Hall of Recognition, W. L. Lyons Brown Theatre and the Fifth Third Conference Center, the Owsley Brown II Center for Artistic Excellence.

When Mayor Charles Farnsley, who served as Mayor of the City of Louisville from 1948 to 1953, first conceived of the Fund for the Arts in 1949, he based its structure on that of the Community Chest, now known as Metro United Way. The Fund’s first office was a room with five desks in the basement of the Public Library at Fourth and York Streets, described as “very cramped” by a volunteer. The first campaign, chaired by Fund board chair (and later Judge) Alexander G. Booth, was overseen by a part-time Executive Secretary William R. Dunton III and raised $99,000. The first member agencies included The Louisville Orchestra, the Louisville Theatrical Association, Louisville Children’s Theatre (now StageOne Family Theatre), and the Junior Art Gallery, the forerunner of the Louisville Visual Art Association, among others.

The second part-time head of the Fund was Richard H. Wangerin who took over as Executive Secretary from 1954 to April 1968. At the time, Wangerin also managed The Louisville Orchestra, the Theatrical Association and the Brown Theatre. At the time, fundraising for the Arts was not as widespread and so it was not until the 1960’s that the campaign raised over $200,000.

The Fund’s growth accelerated in the 1970’s. The first full-time Executive Secretary was hired in September 1971. C. Dennis Riggs, a Louisville native and former college athlete, headed the Fund for the next three years. In 1976 Allan Cowen was hired. Cowen had formerly served as Associate Director of the Winston-Salem Arts Council. Upon Cowen’s retirement in 2011, then Executive Vice President Barbara Sexton Smith was named the President & CEO in April 2012. After years of working in development for nonprofits, Christen Boone was most recently named President & CEO of the Fund in July 2014.

Fund for the Arts celebrated its 40th anniversary in 1989 by relocating to its restored downtown Louisville building renovated for a total of $900,000. Purchase of the Fund building was made possible by generous grants from Mary Caperton Bingham and Jane Morton Norton, with interior finishing donated by Amelia Brown Frazier. The building offers space for the Fund operations along with commercial tenants providing rental income to help cover the annual operating space rent.

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