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Russian artists and donors prompt a reckoning at arts institutions

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Marketplace, March 2022

Organizations of all kinds are reexamining their ties with Russia, corporations, financial institutions and arts organizations among them. The soprano Anna Netrebko withdrew from upcoming performances with the Metropolitan Opera after she refused to distance herself from her past support of Vladimir Putin and a Russian donor stepped down from the Guggenheim Museum’s board of trustees. Arts organizations are now grappling with the issues raised by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, which is having an impact on both donors and performers.

Nonprofits sometimes turn a blind eye to donors’ backgrounds. If you don’t ask questions, you don’t have to deal with the answers.

“The default position is the donation is good, the donor is good. And so what you don’t get is much vetting at all,” said Patricia Illingworth, a researcher of philanthropy and ethics at Northeastern University.

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