Rich Sneary purchased his first piece of art when he was 13 years old.
His mother took him to an arts and crafts show in Somerset Center, Michigan, where he saw a display of paintings by a woman in her late 70s.
“She painted because she enjoyed it, and she sold her pieces for extra money,” Rich said.
Her painting of a single tree, backlit by a sunset, stood out to teenage Rich. He bought it. “It was probably less than $20,” he said.
The sun shining from behind the tree gave it a burnt effect, he said. “But to me, it looked like a tree showing signs of strength that it’s going to survive no matter what happens to it.”
From childhood through today, that 14-by-10-inch painting has always hung in his bedroom. “It’s the first thing I see when I wake up.”
Rich’s art collection has grown to more than 300 works, encompassing sculptures, bronze and crystal pieces, and many paintings.
“I buy with spontaneity when something gives me a good feeling and I cannot get it out of my mind,” he said.
Art is important to Rich – so important that he sits on the Lansing Art Gallery & Education Center’s board of directors. And he understands the value of access to the arts. He wants that to be part of his legacy, so, his art collection and a portion of his estate will be left to the organization to support a cause he cares deeply about.
“Art gives me the ability to escape to places I’ve never been,” he said. “It allows the mind to wander.”
When people visit his Lansing home – which is a de facto art gallery – he enjoys watching them examine the art.
“I’m always amazed by the conversation that comes from it,” he said. “Art brings joy to life, no matter if you’re a kid going through an education program at the gallery, or you’re walking through a museum looking at pieces that make you smile, or you’re like me and you find something you like and you invest in it.
“We have to have art in our lives.”
Rich, who is a senior financial adviser with the BZEMS Group at Merrill Lynch, knows firsthand it’s never too early to think about planned giving.
“So many people put it off, and then when they pass away, money doesn’t always go to the places you want it to,” he said. “Estate planning is about making sure what you want to have happen with your money happens. That you support who and what’s important to you.”
Even for people who feel they don’t have significant wealth to give away today, making planned giving choices now is a way to understand how much of an impact they could make someday.
For Rich, the impact of arts education is important.
“The Lansing Art Gallery & Education Center brought two things to my life – amazing artwork and the access to art they give to kids,” Rich said. “I never had children, so this is a way for me to help bring joy to and enrich the lives of something I never had.”
About the Author: Robin Miner-Swartz has more than two decades of experience in journalism and community philanthropy. She’s merged those skills into her own business, Miner-Swartz Editing and Consulting, writing and editing for a broad range of publications and working with nonprofit leaders to help them become better storytellers.