For the past 25 years, Community Foundation donors Carole and the late Andrew Clarkson of the Jeniam Foundation were among this community’s most generous and involved arts supporters. In doing so, the Jeniam Foundation has set the stage for the continued success of the arts in Memphis. In 2015, 16 organizations representing theatre, dance, music, and the visual arts collaborated to create Learn, Earn, and Return, a book – named for his oftencited philosophy of life – celebrating Andrew Clarkson’s visionary leadership in our cultural sector.
A Scot by birth, Andrew was recruited by Pitt Hyde to be CFO of Malone & Hyde in 1983. Though he and his family moved to Connecticut after Malone & Hyde’s sale in 1988, Andrew remained involved with ArtsMemphis. That connection to the arts evolved into a decades-long commitment to helping Memphis arts groups develop and thrive.
Carole and Andrew founded the Jeniam Foundation – named for daughter Jennifer and son William – in 1992. In addition to establishing an intergenerational, private charitable foundation, they also created Jeniam II and Jeniam III Foundations specifically to provide funding to Memphis arts organizations. In total, the Clarksons have given more than $10 million to Memphis arts groups. “My goal is to provide long-term support for performing arts organizations in Memphis,” Andrew said at the time he established the Jeniam II Foundation at the Community Foundation. “Funding a supporting organization was a logical and tax-efficient means of achieving this.”
Virtually no arts group in Memphis went untouched by the shrewd strategic thinking, sound advice, and financial largesse that Andrew offered. “We don’t like just writing checks,” he said. “We like to be involved in the work of the organizations we sponsor.” Circuit Playhouse, Inc. is one example of the deep involvement Andrew forged with the organizations he supported. Initially, he funded small projects, like a box office upgrade in the early 90s. He then became integral to the creation of TheatreWorks, the alternative theatre space in Overton Square. Finally, he ended up playing a major part in the creation of the new, state-of-the-art Playhouse on the Square and Jeniam Center for the Arts.
Jackie Nichols, founder and executive producer, pictured at right with Andrew, says, “One of the reasons for our successful relationship is that the majority of efforts did not just benefit Circuit Playhouse, Inc., but they had components that encouraged collaboration or shared resources with other groups.… Andrew and the Jeniam Foundation [were] an amazing gift to the Memphis arts community.”