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Hollywood Finds Creative Ways to Give Back

Entertainment philanthropy extends to the arts, the developing world,  the disabled and veterans. Here’s how a few in the industry are doing the right thing.


Bob and David Gersh

Museum of Contemporary Art/Whitney Museum of American Art

The Gersh agency co-presidents and brothers Bob and David Gersh were raised by art collectors, so it was only natural that they would follow in their parents’ footsteps by giving back to the art world.

David and wife Susan, a museum trustee, stay involved at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles (MOCA) by pledging toward the museum’s endowment and donating works to the collection. “I get a joy and a pleasure out of it,” he says. “But I think beyond the aesthetic there’s this intellectual understanding of what the artist is trying to do.”

Bob, meanwhile, serves on the board of directors of the Whitney Museum of American Art and was instrumental in the museum’s recent move across Manhattan. “It’s important to give back, and support whatever arts organizations that you’re into,” Bob says. “In my case it’s the visual arts.


Rosario Dawson

Studio One Eighty Nine

Rosario Dawson founded Studio One Eighty Nine, a social justice philanthropy with its headquarters in Ghana, with Abrima Erwiah. The organization seeks to help people in developing countries by launching collections of artisan-made goods. They are working on a line they plan on showing in September in New York. “Then we’re going to present them in Ghana during Fashion Week,” Erwiah says.

Dawson is inspired by her grandmother, who was a seamstress. “By supporting people like my grandmother, whose diligence and hard work made it possible for me to have the life I have now,” she says, “(they) are going to have an opportunity that they couldn’t have otherwise.”


Gary Sinise

Gary Sinise Foundation

When Gary Sinise (pictured) started his own foundation in 2011, he says, he was involved with more than 25 military charities. Now it’s a full-time commitment. The public nonprofit supports defenders, veterans, first responders and their families. Since its inception, Sinise has instituted several programs within the foundation, from RISE, which focuses on relief for wounded veterans, to monthly veteran nights at the Steppenwolf Theater in Chicago.

“It became clear to me that this is something I’m very passionate about trying to do,” says Sinise, “keeping the defenders strong, so I faced the facts that starting my own military charity and organization was the next logical step for me.”


Amy Brenneman, Ted Danson, Mary Steenbergen and others

‘Becoming Bulletproof’

Documentary “Becoming Bulletproof” looks at the making of a short film called “Bulletproof,” made with actors with and without disabilities. The camp was started by brothers Will and Peter Halby, who have worked with the disabled since the 1980s.

Since its first screening, Ted Danson, Mary Steenburgen, Jamie Lee Curtis, Amy Brenneman and Benjamin Bratt have embraced the doc. When Brenneman saw the film, she was “knocked out.”

An active member of what she calls the “inclusive art-making movement,” Brenneman has founded a community theater and enrolls her children, one of whom has a learning disability, in an inclusive charter school. Of the Halby brothers, she says, “They want to change the world and so do I.”

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