Support of art and artists helps enrich communities

Arts and culture
Community involvement

Through sponsorships, donations and a private art collection, RBC Wealth Management aims to promote the exchange of ideas and provide access to art.


In 2015, Amy Sturtevant was introduced by a colleague to staff from the National Museum of Women in the Arts (NMWA), in Washington, D.C. She was told about the museum’s unique mission and that she might be interested in finding ways to support it.

It didn’t take long for her to see why.

Opened in 1987, NMWA was the first museum in the world dedicated solely to championing women in the arts. The museum aims to recognize the achievements of women artists of all periods and nationalities by exhibiting, preserving, acquiring and researching art by women.

“There’s no other place like it,” says Sturtevant, a financial advisor in RBC Wealth Management’s Washington, D.C. branch. “The fact that they’ve made that their mission, the heart of what they do, is extremely important to me.”

In the years since that 2015 meeting, RBC Wealth Management has become one of the museum’s largest corporate supporters. Each year, the firm sponsors the museum’s annual gala, which is a celebration of the museum’s work—as well as its largest fund-raising event of the year.

“RBC Wealth Management has been an extraordinary leader, through their high-level and visible support of the museum,” says Lucy Buchanan, senior advancement consultant for the museum.

Photo of Amy Sturtevant helping present sculptor Ursula Von Rydingsvard with the NMWA Lifetime Achievement Award at the museum's 2019 Spring Gala.

Amy Sturtevant, far right, helped to present sculptor Ursula Von Rydingsvard with the NMWA Lifetime Achievement Award at the museum’s 2019 Spring Gala. Photo courtesy of NMWA and Tony Powell.

That support of NMWA is just one example of how RBC Wealth Management promotes the visual arts in communities across the country. Since 2017, the firm has committed nearly $1.6 million in sponsorships to more than 140 different artistic and cultural events, from NMWA’s annual gala and major exhibitions at the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis to a unique satellite project at the Nevada Museum of Art. Additionally, over the same period, the RBC Foundation – USA has awarded $1.8 million to nearly 170 different nonprofits in the U.S. focused on arts and culture.

Through those sponsorships and donations—as well as a private corporate collection—the firm aims to provide access to the arts, help cultivate opportunities for emerging artists, and promote cross-cultural exchanges of ideas and values, explains Martha Baumbach, director of RBC Wealth Management’s community affairs.

“Investing in the arts is a major priority for us,” she says.

Helping emerging artists thrive

At the Minneapolis Institute of Art (Mia), visitors can find works by internationally known and celebrated artists such as Rembrandt, Monet and Georgia O’Keefe. But Mia also promotes local artists who are just starting out in their careers. Through the Minnesota Artists Exhibition Program (MAEP), artists who live in the state can apply for the opportunity to exhibit their work at Mia.

Since 2012, RBC Wealth Management has supported MAEP with a grant from the RBC Foundation – USA, which has helped the museum provide a permanent exhibition space for local artists. That’s been a boost for the artists who are chosen, says Steven Hall, senior advancement officer of corporate relations at Mia.

“The impact of having a show at the museum can have a lasting effect on an artist’s career,” Hall says. “It’s an endorsement for future exhibitions they might have at other museums.”

For Leslie Barlow, a Minneapolis artist exploring themes of multiculturalism, identity and family, the MAEP program provided her with the opportunity to present her work in a museum for the first time. Called “Within, Between, and Beyond,” her exhibition was displayed at Mia from July through October 2021.

“The whole experience was both challenging and rewarding,” says Barlow, who in 2022 was invited to speak at RBC Wealth Management’s inaugural Women’s Summit. “Minnesota-based artists are really lucky to have such a great platform to share their ideas and work with the wide range of audiences who visit Mia.”

Photo of selections of work from Leslie Barlow's Within, Between, and Beyond exhibition at Mia.

Selections of work from Leslie Barlow’s “Within, Between, and Beyond” exhibition at Mia. Photo courtesy of the Minneapolis Institute of Art.

A permanent collection

While sponsorships and donations form the backbone of RBC Wealth Management’s support of the arts, the firm has also promoted art and artists through a private corporate collection since the early 1990s. Called “The Human Touch,” RBC Wealth Management’s art collection comprises more than 400 works that focus on the human figure. Over the years, the collection has toured museums around the country, and it is currently on display throughout the new RBC Gateway building, in downtown Minneapolis.

The collection celebrates diversity through the artists who are included, as well as through the scenes and figures portrayed in the pieces.

“It’s very much like a museum collection,” says Tricia Heuring, curator of “The Human Touch.” “The time span and the subject matter are all related to pivotal social movements and diverse artists trying new things and new processes.”

When the collection was put together, she explains, curators looked at “who was underrepresented at the time, or whose voices weren’t being heard.”

The opportunity to be acquired by a corporate collection, as well as the subsequent exposure afforded by the “The Human Touch” museum exhibitions, would have been incredibly important for many of those artists, Heuring says, some of whom had just begun their careers.

“Having your work acquired, and remaining in a collection, is significant,” she adds. “It says, ‘This work is worth preserving. This work is worth having an ongoing conversation about.'”

And that’s why it’s so important for RBC Wealth Management to support the visual arts, explains Baumbach. By sparking contemplation and stimulating conversation, “the arts play an important role in building vibrant and strong communities,” she says.

Lead image: “Digging into the wind,” 1990, Charles Munch. Right: “Untitled, Figure #2,” 1997, Salomon Huerta. Photo courtesy of “The Human Touch” collection.

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