Acadiana Angels And The Art Of Charitable Giving
When sisters get together they usually shop, meet for lunch, babysit, travel or fight.
When Lila Heymann, Claire Heymann and Joan Heymann-Bergmann get together, they decide whom to donate hundreds of thousands of dollars to.
As third generation owners of Heymann Real Estate and the directors of the Heymann Foundation, these 3 sisters are cultivating a new local vehicle to facilitate their charitable patronage – The Foundation Gallery, now located on 1109 Royal St. in New Orleans.
At the gallery, which showcases the work of local and regional artists, 25% of all proceeds from art sales and from the Gallery Shop go to the charity of their choice. The Foundation then matches what was raised, and 100% of all other funds collected from sliding scale donations at ancillary events also go straight to the cause.
On Saturday, March 21, 2015, from 4:00 p.m. – 6:00 p.m., The Foundation Gallery will host, as part of their “Arts and Activism” series, a discussion by current exhibited artist Demond Matsuo about his show “Haiku with Abandoned Ghosts.” There will also be a performance by Stomp The Violence, the local nonprofit charity recipient chosen to benefit throughout the duration of Matsuo’s exhibit.
“People love it when they can come in and buy art for themselves knowing that a quarter of the sales price will go to a nationally recognized charity,” Lila Heymann said. “By working with Stomp the Violence, we hope to promote the idea that youth engagement through the arts has the potential to curb violence in our community through education and gain access to new resources and opportunities.”
“There are endless needs in New Orleans for people to get involved,” she said. “We know New Orleans and Louisiana charities, and we’re proud to continue supporting Stomp the Violence this month through the gallery.”
Heymann said an exhibit opening can often procure up to $10,000 for a charity through The Foundation Gallery.
“It all depends on who buys what,” she said. “We generate interest through raffles and giveaways, music recitals and performance art. The exhibit is the anchor, and we build many events around it to create additional donation streams.”
The Foundation Gallery opened in 2012, and is a recent transplant from Julia Street. Heymann believed they would benefit from more foot traffic in a new space in the French Quarter. When she found the current location on 1109 Royal, which, coincidentally, is her birthday, she knew it would be the perfect place to purvey her family’s philanthropy.
“We want to be bigger stakeholders in New Orleans,” she said about her gallery’s new location, which also serves as a successful multi-use performance space where they offer afternoon art classes for local kids.
“This end of Royal Street is really evolving,” Heymann said. “It was mostly residential, but now shops are popping up everywhere. There’s a special energy here. People really light up when they come into the gallery and find out that buying art helps a nonprofit. The reception has been amazing.”
Originally from Lafayette, LA, the Heymann family owned a string of popular discount department stores called Heymann’s. Patriarch Maurice Heymann opened up the first store in 1916 that remained in business in downtown Lafayette until the mid-1980s.
Maurice and his son Herbert then started developing commercial real estate in Lafayette, Covington and New Orleans including the Heymann Oil Center development.
Heymann Real Estate, now run by Herbert’s 3 daughters, currently rents to a wide variety of businesses including retail, professional and medical.
The Heymann Foundation, a 501c3 charitable organization, was founded in 1976 by Herbert and his sister Jacqueline and was originally set up to help fund educational scholarships. The mission has changed over the years as the Heymann sisters, who now manage the Foundation as well, say they favor contributing to causes closer to home.
“We’re big supporters of Alzheimer’s charities nationally and locally,” Heymann said. “It’s hard for families to care for a family member with Alzheimer’s, and it can be very costly.”
The Heymann Foundation is one of the largest supporters of the Louisiana Chapter of the Alzheimer’s Association and was responsible for helping the group reopen its doors in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina. The Heymann Foundation provides the Acadiana area with an Alzheimer’s caregiver program and participates in the statewide Walk To End Alzheimer’s which, combined, are the largest annual fundraising events for the association.
Heymann said their mom Carolyn was stricken at a very young age and was sick with the disease for a long time. Team Carolyn, consisting of Heymann Foundation family, friends and supporters, has been recognized nationally as a top Walk To End Alzheimer’s team for its fundraising efforts in the last 2 years.
Other organizations that benefited from gifts and grants from the Heymann Foundation include The American Legion, Boy Scouts of America, Children’s Museum of Acadiana, Dryades YMCA, Goodwill, Habitat for Humanity, Lazarus House, LA/SPCA, Make it Right Foundation, Paralyzed Veterans of America, Second Harvest Food Bank, Tipitina’s Foundation and the National WWII Museum.
After Hurricane Katrina, The Heymann Foundation made significant contributions to the local chapters of the American Red Cross and The Salvation Army, and, internationally, they made donations to aid those affected by the tsunami in Thailand and the earthquake in Haiti through the World Jewish Congress.
The Heymann Foundation also made a donation to the Robin Hood Foundation to help those directly affected by Hurricane Sandy.
Heymann said the family’s Foundation donates anywhere from $200,000 to $600,000 a year fueled by the family’s real estate business, and its fund and equity stocks.
“If the Dow is up, we’re able to give some money,” she said. “It really depends on how the economy and our business is doing.”
“We like to give small and medium sized grants to multiple organizations instead of giving a big one to just a few charities,” she said. “It gives us more exposure and generates a lot more positive energy.”
The Foundation’s mission states, “We believe that it is knowledge and education combined with compassion that are the tools needed to positively enrich one’s community.”
By channeling their charity through The Foundation Gallery, Heymann gets to apply some of her education to explore her passion for art used for social activism.
Heymann, who received a BA in History and Art History, worked at the New Orleans Museum of Art, The Smithsonian Institution in Washington, DC, and the Jewish Museum in NY. While amassing Master’s degrees in History and Library Sciences, her career eventually led her in a different direction after she received another Master’s in Social Work at NYU. She’s now an independent psychiatric evaluator employed by the state of Virginia.
Through The Foundation Gallery, she’s excited about getting back in touch with her first love, the arts, and working in her home state.
“Louisiana is an incredibly fecund place culturally,” she said. “There are rich traditions and a well preserved Francophile culture. It distinguishes itself from the rest of the country. I’m taken aback every time I return.”
Heymann says she’s proud to be part of the growing movement of Louisiana natives who are coming back home to reinvest in the state.
“New Orleans is inclusive and democratic,” she said. “It’s not elitist, as you can enjoy art and culture at all different levels. You can span the spectrum in the ways you can become engaged in the scene. New Orleans is still a livable, affordable city, and it’s attracting so many talented young people which is so important to the city’s continued survival.”
“The great thing about giving is you don’t have to orchestrate a big undertaking to benefit an organization,” she said. “Finding small ways to help can also create beneficial assistance to the New Orleans economy and its social causes.”
The Foundation Gallery
1109 Royal St.
New Orleans, LA 70116
10:00 a.m. – 6:00 p.m.