Donors

Spreading a lifelong love of the arts

Through a donor advised fund Susan Gonsalves established at the Foundation in 2010, she is focused on sharing her love of theater with others who might not otherwise have the experience.

Susan Gonsalves believes we gain something priceless from the arts. “You get the gratification of having something you worked on come to fruition, and there’s a feeling of fulfillment and pride in producing something other people will enjoy,” she explains.

A native of Rhode Island, Susan was exposed to the arts at a young age, began taking piano lessons at age seven, and helped with costumes for theater productions while a student at Cumberland High School. She recalls that during her junior year her class went to see Twelfth Night at Trinity Repertory Company and, “That was the start of my love affair with theater.”

Her education – an undergraduate degree from Mount Holyoke College and a PhD in pharmacology from Dartmouth College – took her in another direction. Then her career in academia and more than 30 years at Pfizer, Inc. where she oversaw cutting edge medical research, took her even further away. Yet, she sees clear parallels between the corporate world and the arts. “Theater is very corporate. They both are all about teams; we all have to do our individual part or the whole does not work,” she explains.

The Gonsalves family was introduced to the Foundation by their attorney as a means of memorializing Susan’s father. The now 20-year-old Henry Gonsalves Family Fund has provided scholarships to graduating seniors at Cumberland High School and supported numerous arts organizations.

"I really depend on the Foundation to do due diligence and find organizations I’m not familiar with...There are some organizations where a $10,000 gift is going to make a huge impact.”

- Susan Gonsalves

Now, through a donor advised fund Susan established in her own name at the Foundation in 2010, she is focused on sharing her love of theater with others who might not otherwise have the experience. “I like to emphasize the up and coming…youth and people who are trying to break into theater,” she notes, adding, “And I really depend on the Foundation to do due diligence and find organizations I’m not familiar with. I’m interested in smaller organizations, particularly those that work with the schools. There are some organizations where a $10,000 gift is going to make a huge impact.”

She notes two Providence-based organizations, Wilbury Theater Group and the Manton Avenue Project, that the Foundation introduced her to and which she since has supported. “I would never have the knowledge of all the different arts groups, nor could I vet these organizations myself or know where the greatest need is. Instead, I say to the Foundation, ‘Make me a proposal, I’ll look at it, and then I’ll make a decision,’” Susan says.

When Susan established her fund in 2010, she stated, “The fund provides opportunities to help people prosper and to succeed. It is a wonderful way to give back.” Indeed, many “up and comers” in the local theater scene would have to agree.

Three ways to support the arts

  1. Buy art, tax free. Five years ago Rhode Island made a significant tax law change in support of the art world.Now all original and limited edition works of art sold in the State of Rhode Island are exempt from state sales tax. Learn more at Buy Art Tax Free.
  2. Open a fund or donate to an existing fund for the arts. Work with us to create a fund at the Rhode Island Foundation that is targeted toward your interest in supporting the arts. Or, give us a call any time and we'll direct you to an existing fund at the Foundation that already is supporting the local arts scene.
  3. Co-fund a grant to an arts organization with us. Individuals, families, and corporations with advised funds at the Foundation are invited to learn about co-funding opportunities. By doing so, you work alongside us to meet community need in response to grant proposals that we receive, vet, and approve.