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creative:impact - Jobs in the arts invite a diversity of skills and interests

Jonathan and Lizzie Tisch
The Tisch Family
Jonathan and Lizzie Tisch

Creative industries in Washtenaw County add hundreds of millions of dollars to the local economy. In the weeks and months to come, 89.1 WEMU's David Fair and co-host Deb Polich, the President and CEO of Creative Washtenaw, explore the myriad of contributors that make up the creative sector in Washtenaw County.

Deb Polich
David Fair
89.1 WEMU
Deb Polich, president and CEO of Creative Washtenaw, at the WEMU studio.


U-M alumna Lizzie Tisch earned her bachelor’s degree from the College of Literature, Science, and the Arts (LSA). Jonathan, an alumnus of Tufts University, is co-chairman of the board of the Loews Corporation, and chairman and CEO of its Loews Hotels & Co subsidiary. He is also a co-owner of the New York Giants.

As collectors, benefactors, and proponents of contemporary art and artists, Lizzie and Jonathan are ardent supporters of leading arts and culture organizations across the United States. This gift to UMMA follows their recent major gift to The Shed—the New York cultural center that commissions, develops, and presents multi-disciplinary art—which opened in Hudson Yards, New York City in April 2019.

At U-M, Lizzie and Jonathan have supported internships at LSA and the School of Music, Theatre & Dance, exhibitions and programs at UMMA, and the football performance center in Athletics, among other areas. Their philanthropic contributions to Michigan total more than $8.6 million.

The Tisch family’s multigenerational support for Michigan began with Jonathan’s parents, the late Preston Robert Tisch and late Joan Tisch, who, as U-M students, met on the steps of the Hatcher Graduate Library. A collector of 20th-century art, Joan Tisch gave $1 million to UMMA in 2007 to name the Joan and Bob Tisch Gallery of Modern and Contemporary Art.

Jonathan (Jon) Tisch

Jonathan Tisch at the 2009 Tribeca Film Festival premiere of Woody Allen's film Whatever Works.
Wikipedia Media Commons
Jonathan Tisch at the 2009 Tribeca Film Festival premiere of Woody Allen's film Whatever Works.

Jonathan Tisch is chairman and CEO of Loews Hotels & Co and co-chairman of the Board and Member of the Office of the President of Loews Corporation.

Tisch has led Loews expansion and emergence as a leading hotel company with a culture that embraces the power of partnerships – with team members, guests, communities and owners. He was previously voted "Hotelier of the World" by HOTELS magazine.

Recognized nationally as a leader of the multi-billion-dollar travel and tourism industry, Tisch founded and served as Chairman of the Travel Business Roundtable, and now serves as Chairman Emeritus of its successor organization, the United States Travel Association. Committed to a vibrant tourism industry locally, Tisch served as Chairman of NYC & Company, the city’s official tourism agency, for nearly six years. Concurrent with his national efforts to help stimulate travel in the aftermath of 9/11, Tisch served as Chairman of New York Rising, which played an instrumental role in reviving tourism and the local economy.

Tisch is the author of three bestselling books: The Power of We: Succeeding Through Partnerships; Chocolates on the Pillow Aren’t Enough: Reinventing the Customer Experience; and Citizen You: Doing Your Part to Change the World. He was the host of the Emmy-nominated television series, Beyond the Boardroom.

Tisch is a champion of civic engagement and currently serves on the Board of The Shed, New York’s new cultural center for artistic invention, as well as Vice Chair of the Board of Trustees for Tufts University, where he is the naming benefactor of the Tisch College of Civic Life. He was instrumental in bringing Super Bowl XLVIII to the region and served as co-chair of the historic 2014 NY/NJ Super Bowl Host Committee. He is a co-owner of the 2007 and 2011 Super Bowl Champions New York Giants.

Lizzie Tisch

Lizzie Tisch
Lizzie Tisch

Lizzie Tisch started her career in the insurance and banking industries before focusing her efforts in the fashion arena.

Tisch, a member of Vanity Fair’s International Best-Dressed List Hall of Fame and a Contributing Editor to Town & Country, was a co-founder of the beloved membership based shopping destination, Suite 1521.

She is passionate about a number of causes and works with and supports many nonprofit organizations including serving as a member of the Board of Citymeals on Wheels and as a member of the Board of Trustees for New York–Presbyterian Hospital and The Town School.

Tisch is also actively involved with Hudson Yards’ multi-disciplinary arts center, The Shed.


$250K gift establishes Lizzie and Jonathan Tisch Michigan Culture Corps Internship Fund

ANN ARBOR—The arts touch every academic discipline, from engineering and political science to nursing and the law. And yet, arts-minded college students in those majors rarely bring their unique talents to arts careers—talents that would enrich individual organizations and the culture at large.

Lizzie and Jonathan Tisch hope to diversify and enliven the cultural landscape with a recent gift of $250,000 to establish the Lizzie and Jonathan Tisch Michigan Culture Corps Internship Fund at the University of Michigan. The program is administered by U-M's Art's Initiative.

"We are excited to support the bold vision of the Arts Initiative, especially its goal to fully integrate the arts into a Michigan education and encourage all students to deeply engage with the arts and art-making during their time on campus," said Lizzie and Jonathan Tisch in a joint statement.

"Our support for Michigan Culture Corps will help to expose students who possibly haven't yet considered a career in the arts to the broad opportunities available in our country's cultural sector."

Michigan Culture Corps

The fund will support the Michigan Culture Corps in recruiting BA and BS degree students—who are not necessarily arts majors—to pursue internship opportunities and careers in arts and culture organizations. The focus will be on first-generation students, community college transfer students, and other populations historically excluded from arts careers.

"Museums and other arts organizations are coming to terms with the lack of diversity and inclusion in leadership," said Christina Olsen, director of the University of Michigan Museum of Art. "We want to create access at U-M for a broader group of arts-minded undergraduates to engage in an arts internship and then move toward a career in that sector."

A 2018 Mellon Report notes just 16% of museum curators are people of color; only 11% of conservators are.

Financial support is key

The Lizzie and Jonathan Tisch Michigan Culture Corps Internship Fund will address the financial obstacles that often deter students—and organizations—from participating in an arts internship. Students will be paid a stipend for their work and have access to additional support for transportation.

Funds also will be used to support the program's credit-bearing course based in the Department of American Culture, which will kick off the Michigan Culture Corps experience each winter. Host organizations will receive support and contribute their expertise to the planning of the first year of the program.

"Ideal partners include arts organizations, museums and cultural nonprofits seeking a sustained pipeline of diverse talent," said Christopher Audain, managing director of the Arts Initiative at U-M.

To date, partners include

  • Detroit Public Theatre
  • InsideOut Literary Arts, Detroit
  • Ann Arbor-based Creative Washtenaw
  • Living Arts, Detroit
  • The Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History, Detroit
  • CultureSource, Detroit
  • Arab American National Museum, Dearborn

Michigan Culture Corps

The program will launch its first cohort in March 2022. Curriculum is built around a yearly cycle that guarantees an internship placement for each student and creates structures that guide them into and out from the experience. The course provides peer support, as well as education regarding the role arts and culture organizations play in society. Students will develop workplace skills as they learn to collaborate in teams and communicate professionally.

"If students derive a sense of belonging from their internships—a sense that the arts and culture sector should and does include people like them—they are more likely to stay in the field," Audain said.

Throughout spring and summer 2022, Michigan Culture Corps students will embed at participating organizations, gaining exposure to the daily rigors and routines of the arts workplace—ethics, norms and a practical understanding of how organizations work.

Student presentations, as well as debrief and reflection, will take place each fall.

Removing Barriers 

Michigan Culture Corps evolved out of the Arts Initiative at U-M. Clare Croft, associate professor of American culture, and Hanna Smotrich, associate professor at the Penny Stamps School of Art and Design led the program's design. They worked with a research team comprising artists, students and administrators who conducted focus groups and interviews with nearly 400 U-M students and 50 arts organizations based in southeast Michigan.

Some 80% of student respondents reported an arts hobby and 61% had taken art courses at U-M. But many students had not pursued arts internships as part of their academic experience. Obstacles ranged from a lack of awareness to a need for a paid internship. Researchers also identified strong interest among organizations in southeast Michigan, many led by people from historically excluded populations. Some 91% agreed they would be better able to host students with financial support from U-M.


U-M Arts Initiative

Culture Corps

The Tisch Family

University of Michigan College of Literature, Science, and the Arts

University of Michigan Museum of Art


Deb Polich: Welcome to creative:impact on 89 one WEMU. Thanks for tuning in every Tuesday as we meet creative guests rooted in Washtenaw County and explore how their creative businesses, products, programs, and services impact and add to our local quality of life, place, and economy. I'm Deb Polich, president and CEO of Creative Washtenaw and your host for creative:impact. You know, one of our common themes here at creative:impact is how the arts and creativity intersects with every discipline from engineering and political science to health and the law. Lizzie and Jon Tisch agree. The Tisches also know that arts-minded college students and majors outside of the arts rarely pursue a career in the arts. They want to change that. They recently established the Lizzie and Jon Tisch Michigan Culture Corps Internship Fund at the University of Michigan with a significant gift of $250,000. Let's hear more about what they have planned. Lizzie and Jon, welcome to creative:impact.

Jon Tisch: Thank you very much for having us.

Deb Polich: Yeah, I'm excited to have this conversation. You know, and it's probably a good time to mention that Artrain and Creative Washtenaw are actually in the original cohort here that's just starting to be part of Culture Corps. And we're really looking forward to it. So first, thank you and thanks to U of M Arts Initiative for the opportunity.

Jon Tisch: Of course.

Lizzie Tisch: Our pleasure.

Deb Polich: Yeah, you both have ties to U of M. Lizzie, you're a graduate of the College of Literature, Arts and Sciences. And Jon, your parents met while students at Michigan. And, to gather, you both have made a point of giving back to the University of Michigan and many other philanthropic endeavors, including the arts. You know, it's pretty easy for people to understand how donations benefit institutions and nonprofits, but it's less obvious how and why people give. Lizzie, as benefactors, what compels you and Jon to give? What do the two of you gain personally?

Lizzie Tisch: Well, you know, we both feel we're in a very fortunate position, and Jon hates using the term "giving back." We like to say it's our responsibility. And, you know, Michigan was an amazing place for me, and I loved my time there. But, to be perfectly honest, I didn't take quite as much advantage as they should have. And I think the perfect example is, you know, I don't know that I walked into that museum once. So, the fact that it's making such an impact on the students that are there now gives us great pleasure. But I think just, in general, of why we give, it's because we feel as though we have a responsibility to those who don't have and aren't in the position that we are.

Deb Polich: So, you mentioned in the museum, I'm suspecting you're referring to the University of Michigan Museum of Art.

Lizzie Tisch: Yes.

University of Michigan Museum of Art
University of Michigan Museum of Art
University of Michigan Museum of Art

Deb Polich: Jon, your parents, I understand, were contemporary art collectors. Did being surrounded by their collection influence your life and, ultimately, your choice to invest in significantly in the arts?

Jon Tisch: So, Deb, you were kind to mention the connection that Lizzie and I both have to the University of Michigan with her being a grad and my parents literally meeting there. My mother was from the Upper West Side of Manhattan. My father was from Brooklyn. This was right after World War Two. And each of them found their way to Ann Arbor, and they met on the steps of the undergraduate library in 1946. So, I would not be here if it wasn't for the University of Michigan. Lizzie has her connections that she just referred to. And when you mentioned the whole notion of growing up with art and understanding its importance in our life, it does connect to how we want to extend our giving. Lizzie talked about responsibility, and we do believe this is a responsibility. And for students at the University of Michigan and other institutions around the country, we hope that by our ability to expand programs, to shine a light on opportunity for people and young men and women who might not have grown up with art like we were fortunate to do, that it will expand their knowledge and will round out their lives once they graduate in Ann Arbor or anywhere else around the country and have access to programs that we think are important to creating a whole person.

Deb Polich: That's awesome. Lizzie, you know, the Michigan Culture Corps--the Internship Fund. Was it the idea of the two of you, or did the University of Michigan approach you?

Lizzie Tisch: I want to say--and Jon, your memory seems to be better than mine these days--but I believe that Tina Olson approached us with this idea, which we loved, because, to your point, I don't know that everyone thinks about the arts as a career. You know, there's artists, and then there are careers in the arts. And I think giving students the opportunity to explore paths they might not have considered before is an amazing opportunity.

Deb Polich: Certainly is. 891 WEMU's creative:impact continues. I'm Deb Polich. My guests are Lizzie and Jon Tisch. Their recent gift to the University of Michigan has established the Michigan Culture Corps Internship Fund that bears their name. So, you know, there are tons of jobs in the arts, and, as you've identified, Lizzy, you know, they go across so many different disciplines. And I wonder if either of you--Jon, perhaps--could say why you think it may be that the idea of working in the arts is not something that comes top of mind to students studying other subjects.

Jon Tisch: I think having a background and understanding and having an affinity for art comes at an early age, and not everybody has had the opportunity to really think through what a career in the arts might be. And when you look at all of the various majors at an institution like the University of Michigan, there are very compelling and well-thought of career paths. But the arts are certainly a very needed part of our existence. They tend to be underfunded, and we have, in other instances, tried to assist these institutions with the dollars necessary for them to do their important work. And Lizzie is right. Tina Olson, the executive director of UMMA, brought us this idea, and it's just an extension of our support of her leadership and an amazing institution which is available to all who come to Ann Arbor. We have supported the building itself, and we're proud to have our name on the app at UMMA where it is a gallery that shows off their amazing collection or shows that they will be putting on at any particular time. And this is something that Lizzie and I think is important. I am also very fortunate to share, excuse me, to chair The Shed, a new cultural institution here in New York City that's part of Hudson Yards, where we have a space that is designed to be an incubator for all kinds of culture. And we have an understanding and a commitment and a responsibility to allow everybody to express themselves and, hopefully, be a showcase for new kinds of culture of any form. The people have this in their lives and appreciate how fortunate we are to embrace culture and embrace the art.

Deb Polich: It really is partnerships. It's community. It's the artists and the creatives themselves. It's folks like you that want to help make these things thrive and the people that do the work. So, it's really awesome that you guys are doing all this. You know, Lizzie, the lack of diversity in the arts field is something that the Culture Corps is hoping to help alleviate. How much of that lack of diversity do you think is due to affordability and access to the arts?

Lizzie Tisch: My guess is it's probably just more of access in terms of, you know, I think when Jon said kids are getting--what's the word I'm looking for--getting exposed to the arts at an early age. I think that if they're not, it might not necessarily be a path that they would even consider and think about. So, I think it's incredibly important that this program focuses on perhaps those that haven't had the opportunity to be a part of the arts. I mean, Jon, I'm not sure what your thoughts are on this.

Jon Tisch: No, I think you're exactly right and what the Culture Corps will do. And if you look at the relationship that they're creating with institutions that are based in and around Detroit, in and around Ann Arbor, such as your own Creative Warshaw, Deb, this is the ability to let--

Lizzie Tisch: Washtenaw.

Jon Tisch: I didn't go to the University of Michigan. I can say Warshaw.

Lizzie Tisch: You got to get the pronunciation right.

Jon Tisch: Washtenaw. This is the ability for us to offer an insight into careers in the arts. And if you look at your Creative Washtenaw, if you look at the Detroit Public Theatre, InsideOut Literary Arts in Detroit, CultureSource in Detroit, these are community-based organizations that University of Michigan will be working with to offer internships, to have stipends for the young men and women who have the ability that now have a relationship with these institutions, learn about the arts, and learn about what a career in the arts might look like.

Deb Polich: Well, gosh. Thank you both for giving us the insight into what you're hoping this will produce. We're going to look forward to seeing the outcome of that in a few years. And I want to thank you for being on creative:impact.

Jon Tisch: Thank you.

Lizzie Tisch: Thank you for having us.

Deb Polich: That's Lizzie and Jon Tisch. Their recent gift to the University of Michigan has established the Michigan Culture Corps Internship Fund that bears their name. Find out more information about the Tisches and the Michigan Culture Corps by visiting WEMU dot org. I'm Deb Polich, president and CEO of Creative Washtenaw and host of creative:impact. Please join me next Tuesday when we meet another creative Washtenaw guest on this, your community NPR Radio Station, 891 WEMU FM and WEMU HD One Ypsilanti.

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Polich hosts the weekly segment creative:impact, which features creative people, jobs and businesses in the greater Ann Arbor area.
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