Donor Story

Contribution to the Community

Arthur Bell Youth Foundation’s Gift Funds New Auditorium in Harwood Museum of Art

Michelle G. McRuiz

The Arthur Bell Youth Foundation didn’t set out to fund a new auditorium at UNM’s Harwood Museum of Art in Taos. The Harwood discovered the foundation at just the right time, and its generous gift has provided the Harwood Museum and the Taos community with a state-of-the-art facility that gives residents and visitors many new opportunities for exposure to visual, literary and performing arts.

“This beautiful auditorium, equipped with a surround-sound audio system and high-definition video projection, has become both a meaningful gathering place for the community and a portal to remarkable arts experiences happening all over the world,” said Harwood Museum of Art Director Susan Longhenry. “The remarkable generosity of the Bell family has touched the lives of so many people, in so many ways.”

The gift happened serendipitously. During a personal visit from Susan, the officers of the foundation looked through the blueprints of the museum’s expansion and saw that a section remained available for a naming opportunity. The last large remaining need of the Harwood expansion project matched the mission of the foundation beautifully. It was a win for everyone.

From Mechanics to Philanthropy

The Arthur Bell Youth Foundation was started by the late Arthur Knight Bell, who could take cars apart and put them back together by the time he was 14 years old. After high school he took a job with General Motors (GM), working on the assembly line. Arthur advanced from assembling cars to traveling around the country, teaching GM mechanics how to fix cars and trucks. Unfortunately, he developed a heart condition and took medical retirement at age 60. He settled in Phoenix and became involved with various philanthropic pursuits, focusing on youth. Arthur launched a foundation to help give kids more access to the arts. Both he and his father, Arthur Sr., visited Taos and were impressed by the Harwood Museum, and so the gift honors both men.

Both father and son were in education and helped many individual students during their lifetimes, but the foundation’s gift will end up impacting many more children by exposing them to the arts. This goal was central to the mission of the foundation, and indeed children and families in Taos have been quite delighted with their new venue for the arts.

Art Outreach

The Arthur Bell Auditorium offers films, concerts, opera simulcasts and lectures, all of which are open to the public. “It’s a wonderful contribution to the community,” said a foundation spokesperson. “It has immediately been booked for concerts and talks. It brings people into the museum and enhances what was already a very welcoming space.  Furthermore, the staff works well together and is amazingly enthusiastic about the arts and programs for the community.”

“The auditorium has transformed the Harwood Museum of Art’s relationship with the northern New Mexico community,” said Susan. “Between December 2010 and June 2011 more than 4,400 people, young and old, participated in programs ranging from a live simulcast from the Bolshoi Ballet to a concert by world-renowned jazz musicians, to a raucous reading by author John Nichols. Many of these people were experiencing the Harwood Museum of Art for the first time.”