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MacKenzie Scott donates $1.5 million to Rhode Island music program

Community MusicWorks, a nonprofit based in Providence, will use the funds to support a new performance center and education programs

MacKenzie Scott, the former wife of Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, announced Tuesday, June 15, 2021, that she has given $2.7 billion to 286 organizations, including one non-profit in Rhode Island.
MacKenzie Scott, the former wife of Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, announced Tuesday, June 15, 2021, that she has given $2.7 billion to 286 organizations, including one non-profit in Rhode Island.Evan Agostini/Evan Agostini/Invision/AP

PROVIDENCE — MacKenzie Scott, one of the wealthiest women in the world, announced in a blog post Tuesday that she would be giving away $2.74 billion to 286 organizations to combat racial discrimination in the arts— including one non-profit in Rhode Island.

Community MusicWorks, a nonprofit based in the West End of Providence, was among the recipients, and confirmed to the Globe that they received an unsolicited $1.5 million.

Community MusicWorks hosts permanent residency of a professional music ensemble that teaches and performs throughout the region. About 150 young people living in the Southside, West End, Olneyville, and Mt. Pleasant neighborhoods participate in free music lessons, workshops, ensembles, and social justice programs, according to founder and artistic director Sebastian Ruth.

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Ruth said the organization plans to use the award for future program innovation and to support a new center for performance and education programs.

Scott was previously married to Amazon founder Jeff Bezos until their divorce in 2019, and had promised that same year that she would give “until the safe was empty.” Last year, Scott and her husband, Dan Jewett, gave away nearly $6 billion to 500 organizations.

While Scott listed the names of the organizations that she was awarding grants to, she did not list the dollar amounts per recipient. She wrote that she and her husband spent the first quarter of the year “identifying and evaluating equity-oriented non-profit teams working in areas that have been neglected.”

The search and analysis process remains confidential.

“Arts and cultural institutions can strengthen communities by transforming spaces, fostering empathy, reflecting community identity, advancing economic mobility, improving academic outcomes, lowering crime rates, and improving mental health, so we evaluated smaller arts organizations creating these benefits with artists and audiences from culturally rich regions and identity groups that donors often overlook,” wrote Scott.

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Scott is among a list of the world’s wealthiest families to have taken the Giving Pledge, which is a promise to give away the majority of owned assets in their lifetime.


Alexa Gagosz can be reached at alexa.gagosz@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @alexagagosz.