Blackstone’s Studzinski, Deutsche Support East End Arts
Alfred Hitchcock’s East London birthplace is soon to host a yearlong season of his films -- courtesy of a charity that has John Studzinski, senior managing director of Blackstone Group LP, as its chairman.
The program, drawn up by Create London, starts Sept. 28 with a screening of “Vertigo” at St. Margaret’s Church in Waltham Forest, one of two London boroughs with no cinema. Also in September, a non-fee-paying postgraduate art school opens in a disused community center in Haggerston.
East London -- one of the U.K.’s poorest areas -- hosts some 14,000 artists, more than 100 art galleries, and dozens of companies. Create’s aim is to connect them with the locals. The charity’s main sponsor is Deutsche Bank AG. Bank of America Merrill Lynch funds its annual 50,000 pound ($77,600) art commission.
“The Create team contacted me out of the blue and said ’We need a chairman,’” says Studzinski, 57, over lunch at a Mayfair restaurant. “It was all about the six poorest boroughs, the role of the arts, urban renewal. I just thought, this is a great opportunity to do what I’ve done, but do it on a broader scale.”
“They didn’t ask me for money once,” says Studzinski. “So much of philanthropy is: People are nice to you, they want you involved, but they really want your checkbook.”
Create Director Hadrian Garrard says he approached Studzinski because he’s “committed to society and social improvement” and “could put together a board.”
The 13-person board now includes Matthew Slotover, co-founder of the Frieze Art Fair; and Ruth Mackenzie, director of the London 2012 Cultural Olympiad. Studzinski says he’ll ask every member to give to Create, which invests some 1.2 million pounds a year in East London cultural projects.
Also on the board is Henry Ritchotte, Chief Operating Officer of Deutsche Bank, who says his bank became involved as one of East London’s largest employers.
“At Deutsche Bank, we believe in tackling the critical issue of youth unemployment by helping young people to develop life skills through artistic and sporting activity,” says Ritchotte. The hope, he says, is that Create will lead artists and creative organizations to work with local people.
Outside of Create, Studzinski -- a benefactor of Tate, the Royal Court Theatre and the Young Vic -- is giving some 2 million pounds to U.K. beneficiaries this year, and another $2 million to U.S. ones. He says he sold artworks by Andy Warhol and Jean Dubuffet in the June postwar and contemporary auctions at Christie’s International in London to help fund his philanthropy.
A devout Catholic of Polish descent, he’s helping raise $180 million to restore New York’s St. Patrick’s Cathedral. He says about half the money has been raised (including Studzinski’s unspecified donation).
Last month, Studzinski was in Lourdes, France, where, every year, he assists the terminally ill on their pilgrimage. It is there, some 20 years ago, that he met the future Pope Francis.
“He’s always been very genuine, simple, a good communicator, very astute geopolitically and politically,” says Studzinski. “Come the moment, come the man: I think he’s the right man for this moment in the Catholic Church.”
Among Create projects, Studzinski highlights one that just ended: a Royal Court staging of “Circle Mirror Transformation” inside Haggerston’s disused community center.
Actress Imelda Staunton plays a touchy-feely drama-cum-group-therapy coach giving pep talks to four oddballs. Locals snapped up the 120 free tickets; otherwise, the play drew white theatergoers commuting from other areas.
Studzinski says jobs are a big Create priority. According to Garrard, youth unemployment in East London is growing as fast as the pool of galleries and companies opening up in the area.
“Artists and creative people like to be in mixed, interesting communities,” says Garrard. “But there often isn’t positive integration: It’s quite segregated.”
“What we’re trying to do is cross the stream and encourage employers to look out the window, whether they’re artists or commercial advertising agencies,” he says. “There are a lot of young people who haven’t got entry points into these businesses.”
The Royal Court Theatre’s “Circle Mirror Transformation” is part of its 2013 Theatre Local season, sponsored by Bloomberg.
Muse highlights include Richard Vines on food, Elin McCoy on wine and Amanda Gordon’s Scene Last Night.