Fueled for the Future: Preserving Scripps Presents through Donor Support

Lena Waithe and Abbi Jacobson at the College’s donor-funded public events series, Scripps Presents

By Emily Glory Peters

“To bring the world to Scripps, and Scripps to the world.”

This was the dream five years ago when the College launched Scripps Presents, its signature arts and culture public events program. Envisioned as the natural complement to Scripps’ humanities curriculum, the series has brought scores of influential writers, performers, and policymakers to campus to engage our students, faculty, and community in conversations about the world’s most pressing questions. Now, as the series hits a milestone anniversary on the heels of one of the most tumultuous years on record, that dream of connection has taken on fresh significance.

“Scripps Presents extends the transformational Scripps experience to the general public. It’s a forum for contemplation that people might not have in their everyday lives,” says Artistic Director Corrina Lesser, who has been with the program since its inception. Reflecting on this season’s theme—”The Future”—Lesser saw an opportunity to underscore the role of arts and culture as a balm for a society in need of healing through human connection.

“These events erase the boundary between the campus community and people across the greater LA area,” she says. “Especially now, in our current environment, Scripps Presents gives us valuable access to a space where we can learn from and discuss with people who aren’t exactly like us.”

A space created for the community, by the community

That space exists solely due to Scripps’ generous donors, whose foresight has helped preserve and advance arts and culture at the College.

“Many people don’t know Scripps Presents exists because of endowments—invested gifts made by earlier generations—that alumnae and their families created,” says Lesser. Even before Scripps Presents crystallized into its current form, she notes, alums like Alexa Fullerton Hampton ’42, Roxanne Wilson ’76, and others laid the groundwork for baking public events into Scripps’ culture.

“These visionaries recognized that public programming is a natural extension of a Scripps education,” Lesser continues. “Bringing in leaders from across disciplines enhances our students’ exploration of the humanities and invites others on that journey.”

That exploration is reflected in the vibrant array of past presenters, including Angela Davis, Roxane Gay, Lena Waithe, Nancy Pelosi, Colson Whitehead, Samin Nosrat, Abbi Jacobson, Kevin Kwan, Arundhati Roy, Tig Notaro, and many others. Donor support has also advanced accessibility, offering reduced or no-cost admission to most events and expanding the series to reach nearly 35,000 attendees since Scripps Presents launched.

With in-person events on hold due to the pandemic, donor funding has also become increasingly critical in helping the series transition to a virtual venue—a challenge, but one that’s further thinned the divide between Scripps and the world. That’s something Lesser finds especially exciting.

“The silver lining of the pandemic for arts and culture is being able to bring farflung presenters and community members together for the first time,” she says. “It’s really heartening to have access to resources from donors to foster connection in a time like this, regardless of logistics or time zones.”

New developments and opportunities to support Scripps Presents in an era of change

Donor support will help Scripps Presents take advantage of virtual venues and national partnerships, like 2020’s PEN America event with poet and playwright Claudia Rankine

As the spring 2021 season of Scripps Presents debuts this month, more changes are underway.

To bring sensory experiences home, a new series “Brunch With…” will allow guests to order ingredient kits and cook alongside world-renowned chefs online. Recent collaborations with organizations such as PEN America will continue, widening the scope for more national partnerships. Lesser also plans to bring ADA enhancements, such as sign language interpreters and listening devices, to future events. These are just a few innovations audiences are looking for, she says—and something that future Scripps Presents supporters can help realize.

“Although powerful, endowed gifts don’t cover all operational costs. We typically have a budgetary gap of 30 percent, which leaves space for supporters to come alongside and champion the value of arts and culture programming at Scripps,” she says. “We’re excited to explore corporate and foundation support, and we’ll be introducing simple ways our audience can also invest in the program.”

As for the future of Scripps Presents? Her hope is simple: that it continue to connect people and amplify the voices the world most needs to hear.

“Whether you choose to support Scripps Presents as a donor, a guest, or both, our commitment to you is the same,” she says: “to explore timely issues with a dynamic roster of creative people making a difference for others—and who are including us in the conversation.”

To make a gift to Scripps Presents today, please click here and select “Other” to indicate a gift for the program. To view this season’s exciting slate of events, click here.

Interested in learning more? Check out our latest giving and impact news here.