M.J. Murdock Charitable Trust

As we announced in recent updates, the Murdock Trust is undergoing a sectoral redesign. While we will continue to refine this work through seeking feedback from diverse interest-holders and experts, we are pleased that after months of constituent input and strategic planning, we can share the initial vision and strategy for our five updated sectors. This redesign and the resulting sectoral model do not change the types of organizations we support; they simply recategorize and focus our efforts so that each grant can be better understood as part of the ecosystem in which its ripple effects will be most felt.  

This five-part Sector Strategy Blog Series is a chance for each sector’s lead to introduce their vision and strategy. See the other blogs in the series here: Civic Engagement & Community Services; Health & Environmental Stewardship; Nonprofit Leadership & Development; and Scientific Research. 

Top right: two female dancers at an Alaskan Fair; Top left: male piano player with other string musicians in the room; Bottom left: two children painting; Bottom right: Japanese tree in Japanese garden

Written by Lorin Schmit Dunlop, Senior Director, Arts, Culture, & Education

Across the Pacific Northwest, thriving arts scenes, innovative educational models, intriguing cultural institutions, and programs for youth ignite the wonder of learning and discovery. These all contribute to the flourishing of our region and those who call it home. The Arts, Culture, & Education sector of the Murdock Trust aims to strengthen cultural and educational nonprofits that create a space for all ages to create, learn, and connect.  

The Arts 

The arts are essential to individual and community well-being. They engage, educate, inspire, and entertain. Hearing a piece of music can take us to a place in our imagination and memories that we could never go otherwise. Gazing at a painting can prompt meaningful moments of insight and empathy. The arts have the power to remind us of the deepest parts of ourselves and say things we often cannot say in words. They preserve cultural heritage, provide alternatives to isolation, and spark imagination to explore difficult and important questions. Access to arts opportunities is essential for a living, breathing, dreaming, and thriving community.  

The Murdock Trust provides grants to nonprofits that create inclusive spaces to engage with the arts and strengthen the community of Pacific Northwest artists. From community theaters and visual arts programs to media groups and residencies, these organizations welcome those from all backgrounds and walks of life into the experience of making and appreciating art. Strategic project grants are intended to build capacity in these nonprofits, which in turn can strengthen local economies and the entire arts sector

Ballet performance of Cinderella, with the male performer in white on the ground and the female performer holding his hands with one foot in the air
Eugene Ballet, Photo Credit Ari Denison 

Cultural Institutions 

Cultural institutions can also engage us in experiences that reveal things we would not normally see. Museums and heritage sites that preserve and honor unique cultural stories uphold our shared humanity. Zoos, aquariums, and gardens foster curiosity about the natural world and bring us closer to one another through a shared appreciation for science and creation. Cultural institutions are also places of public learning, bringing students and families hands-on experiences like petting starfish, walking through gardens, and holding cultural artifacts. Through programs, camps, and classes, these experiences engage the senses and inspire further learning and action. The Murdock Trust funds projects that foster this important work in innovative ways, welcoming new audiences and embracing emerging technology to create engaged communities. 


In addition to informal education like museums and zoos, the Trust supports nonprofits that are advancing innovative educational practices that ignite the wonder of learning. These organizations implement data-driven, inclusive educational models that demonstrate impact and embrace a whole-person approach to learning. When students are supported at a young age, they learn foundational skills for a lifetime of investment in their own growth, education, and work. The Trust funds projects in early childhood learning, private K-12, and higher education, amplifying learning in arts and STEM that round out the educational experience and give students opportunities to find what brings them joy and wonder.  

Youth Development 

Youth development camps, clubs, and programs bring classroom learning and exploration into out-of-school time. They provide pathways for youth to develop into their best selves and learn how to contribute to the community around them, all while sparking a joie de vivre that fills summer days and creating a community that yields lifelong friendships. The Trust supports camps, clubs, skill-building, and character development programs for youth from all backgrounds in an effort to create a path toward thriving adulthood.  

Four young girls holding hands and jumping rope together
Lopez Island Family Resource Center 

Looking Ahead & Working Together 

The Arts, Culture, & Education sector offers the potential for a brighter future. Within this sector lies our future artists inspiring creative connections, educators developing new pathways to learning, and leaders finding innovative ways to preserve and share cultural legacies. The hope is that this work will lead to more engaged communities and collaboration across groups, such as art therapy offered in recovery centers, affordable housing solutions for working artists, and partnerships between youth development nonprofits and disaster relief organizations. These broaden the opportunity for deep and lasting empathy across communities and increase the potential for lasting change.  

Our founder, Jack Murdock, wanted to see a Pacific Northwest where every individual, family, and community had the opportunity to thrive. We cannot do this work without Arts, Culture, & Education, and we cannot do it without the nonprofits that bring the common good to fruition in our community.  

Learn more about the Arts, Culture, & Education sector here.

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