Carolyn Clark Powers is a dedicated philanthropist and arts patron. Her commitment to giving is sparked by the idea that art is a connector to be freely experienced by all. Carolyn’s expansive charitable focus includes support for the visual and performing arts, music education, and children’s and women’s issues.
Carolyn is the current President of the Board of the Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA), Los Angeles. Elected in 2018, after serving as a trustee since 2009, she is proud to be a part of the first female-led Board at the museum with Chair Maria Seferian, collaborating on new initiatives with Director Klaus Biesenbach. Driven by art’s ability to educate, change and heal, and to bridge cultural and socio-economic divides, Carolyn made a substantial gift to MOCA of $10 million, expanding public access to art in Los Angeles. Her donation funds the museum’s first free general admissions program, Art for All, which commenced in January 2020.
Photograph by Emily Shur
A Los Angeles resident for more than 35 years, Carolyn was raised in Tulsa, Oklahoma. She traces her roots to her ancestral home, Dockery Farms in the Mississippi Delta, designated by the National Register of Historic Places as the official birthplace of Blues music in America.
To honor its vital connection to a music genre chronicling the American experience, Carolyn helped create the Dockery Farms Foundation and is the Co-Chair of its Board of Directors. She also spearheaded a music education program, “The Blues and Jazz: Two American Classics,” at the Herbie Hancock Institute of Jazz (previously the Thelonious Monk Institute), providing instruments and master classes to schools in rural areas.
Impassioned by their invaluable contributions to arts, music and culture, Carolyn is a board member of the Grammy Museum Foundation and the Kennedy Center National Committee for the Performing Arts. She chairs the Americans for the Arts’ National Arts Awards, and is the namesake of its annual Carolyn Clark Powers Lifetime Achievement Award, bestowed to such luminaries as Tony Bennett, Herbie Hancock, Sophia Loren, Mavis Staples and the painter Luchita Hurtado.
Active with the Los Angeles Philharmonic, Carolyn co-chaired its Opening Night Gala from 2007 to 2012 and sponsored its Creative Chair of Jazz for 10 years. She also was a Board Member of the Los Angeles Music Center’s Blue Ribbon. In 2008, Carolyn was named the Music Center’s LA Alive Honoree, after raising more than $2 million for the organization. She went on to chair the Music Center’s “Walk on the Wild Side” Gala, and was on the committee for the Opening Night of the Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts.
Carolyn is a founder of The Painted Turtle, a free-of-charge camp for children with serious illness, which is part of Paul Newman’s Hole in the Wall Gang camps. Since 2004, The Painted Turtle has enabled more than 59,000 kids and their families to experience the joys of summer camp, while fostering independence and friendships, and focusing on personal growth and possibility. For the past 12 years, she has chaired its annual benefit to raise awareness and funds for its programs.
Devoted to early arts and music education, Carolyn worked with PS Arts, serving low-income public schools. As a Leadership Circle Member of Visionary Women’s Advisory Board, she supports the nonprofit’s commitment to Chrysalis, establishing career pathways and resources for homeless women. She also is an event Co-Chair for the Colleagues, funding the Children’s Institute Incorporated.
Carolyn’s involvement in the arts extends to film. She is Executive Producer of the documentary, To Be of Service, moved by its powerful story of service dogs trained to partner with and support veterans, who return home from war with PTSD. The film, by Academy Award–nominated director Josh Aronson and featuring an original song by Jon Bon Jovi, underscores the devastating toll war takes on soldiers. Now streaming on Netflix, the documentary illustrates the pivotal role service dogs play in transforming the lives of veterans shattered after sacrificing for our country.
On a personal level, Carolyn challenges herself to new experiences and perspectives, such as those gleaned by her participation in the annual Aspen Ideas Festival. She regularly engages in feats of physical endurance, including completing marathons in New York, Boston, Washington DC, Chicago and Honolulu. Her love of hiking inspired her to summit Mt. Kilimanjaro in 2012. She balances her philanthropic work with family, including her three sons, mindful yoga and meditation. Carolyn is an avid traveler, skier, art collector and music aficionado, and enjoys fine food and wine.
A full list of organizations that Carolyn supports is available upon request.