Donor Spotlight: Masco Corporation
During this most uncommon season, UMS has been especially grateful for the continued support of and belief in our mission from our donors and community partners. Thanks to their generosity, we have been able to continue to invest in artists and their work, widen the impact of the arts by making our digital offerings free to everyone, and explore new ways of delivering uncommon and engaging experiences with artists. Although we are not able to share and celebrate these stories of support in person, we are excited to unveil a series of Donor Spotlight stories to recognize these important contributions as well as offer a nostalgic look back on some fond UMS memories.
This week, we recognize Masco Corporation, which just celebrated its 25th (!) season of supporting UMS and was the Supporting Sponsor for our You Can Dance–Outside! Series in Wheeler Park. We talked with Communications and Development Coordinator Lauren Plawecki to learn more about Masco’s history with UMS, Lauren’s own background with the arts, and the perks of working in corporate philanthropy and community outreach.
Tell us a little about your own background with the arts — musical talents, first performing arts experience?
I grew up neither musically nor artistically talented but was always enthralled by the talent of others. My first introduction to the arts probably occurred in high school when I fell in love with Art History. I was particularly drawn to how movements in visual art and literature reflect their socio-political context during the high anxiety of wartime, the emotion of political revolutions, and the exhaustion of post-war eras. This passion definitely informed my life in a big way as I ended up getting my Bachelor’s from U of M Ann Arbor in Art History with a minor in Museum Studies.
The arts have been a huge part of my adult life, both through my pre-Masco work at several arts institutions and now taking every opportunity that comes my way to visit galleries and exhibitions. In terms of live performances, it wasn’t until I saw Hamilton that I started to become aware of how changes in music, theater, and dance similarly indicate broader cultural shifts to those who learn to look and listen closely.
Masco has a very long history of supporting a number of arts organizations throughout southeastern Michigan. Can you tell us more about when and how Masco first became involved with UMS?
Masco became involved with UMS during the 1995 May Festival and has been a sponsor every year since. In fact, this year we celebrate our 25th year of support for UMS! In terms of why we support UMS, Masco is passionate about supporting the organizations that elevate a community from being just a cluster of neighborhoods to a thriving, vibrant place to live.
Organizations like UMS, the Detroit Symphony Orchestra, and the Detroit Institute of Arts present talent from around the world. These world-class performances allow for audiences to connect with people from all backgrounds and to learn from diverse cultural experiences. On top of that, Masco believes it’s especially critical to support organizations, like UMS, that offer free programming for students from low-income areas so that they have access to these formative experiences in empathy and multiculturalism.
One of the perks of your job is getting to see the impact of Masco’s support, like attending performances. What is your favorite UMS performance or memory?
In 2017, I attended the UMS presentation of Ragamala Dance Company’s performance Written in Water. I had zero knowledge of Indian classical dance, but this show was incredibly easy to connect to and absolutely transfixing in its color, motion, and especially emotion. It was beautiful in a completely universal, accessible way. The deep traditional knowledge that served as the foundation for the choreography made the performance into a labor of love stretching from the roots of Indian dance to its present forms.
You shared your favorite UMS memory, do you mind sharing any other fun experiences you’ve had in working with Masco’s Community Outreach?
At Masco HQ, we have an employee giving and volunteering program called MascoRocks! which offers opportunities for employees to engage in community service and fundraising. This program has included a lot of great activities, from food and clothing drives to working on Habitat sites and filling orders for food pantries. My favorite recent fundraiser was when we held a birthday party for our resident service-dog-in-training. It was his first birthday and we used the party to raise money for his nonprofit organization, PAWS With A Cause. Between pizza, pupcakes, a speech from a PAWS client on the importance of the organization’s work, and some adorable canine special guests, it was a hard fundraiser to top!