Photo Credit: Brett Haddock, Three Cats Photography

Throughout her life, Hari Kern’s ideas about giving have shifted.

“I never thought of myself as a philanthropist until the past few years,” said Kern, who recently retired from her psychotherapy practice. “As a minister’s daughter, I spent a lot of time in church, and there was a big emphasis on giving back to others, so that’s in my psyche.”

Growing up in Canada, Chicago and New York, Kern said she was taught to give back. “But it’s evolved for me into wanting to give,” she said. “I have a choice.”

Today, her approach to giving is thoughtful. While she sees — and supports — causes that meet basic needs in the community, her philanthropic focus has leaned primarily toward the arts.

“The arts resonate with me deeply because I’ve been so involved in them my whole life,” she said.

Kern grew up playing the piano and earned a degree in piano performance from Ithaca College in New York. She still plays today. “In fact, in my clinical practice as a psychotherapist, I have incorporated an artistic approach in that each therapy session can be seen as a piece to be interpreted for and with my client.”

Alongside her love of music, Kern grew up exploring the visual arts, admiring some beautiful things that were part of her life at home.

“I remember my favorite book growing up was a large coffee-table book – it was the biggest book in our house,” she said. “It featured all the major artwork in the history of the world. I would look at that all the time.”

School field trips took her to the Art Institute of Chicago, and family friends in New York exposed her to art galleries and museums.

So, when Kern came to Lansing 25 years ago, she promptly visited the Lansing Art Gallery and Education Center.

“I was very interested in the fact that they gave so much attention to Michigan artists, local artists, and they encouraged arts education,” she said.

Kern’s giving to the Lansing Art Gallery and Education Center has grown over the years, and her support is unrestricted, allowing her contributions to be used where they’re needed most.

“I’ve so enjoyed seeing the gallery blossom under Barb Whitney,” Kern said of the gallery’s executive director. “She’s so forward-looking, wanting to involve the community. Their outreach is excellent.”

Kern said philanthropic support of the arts is vital because art transcends the divides in our world.

“Art is very democratic,” she said. “You experience it the way you experience it, and no one can tell you you’re wrong.”

Kern said she’s come a long way from her rather circumscribed religious upbringing, yet the world of art mirrors that experience in various ways.

“There’s a spiritual aspect to the arts and music,” Kern said. “These acts of creativity can enable people to experience mutually gratifying emotional experiences that can be transformative.”

It’s why she’s committed to funding the arts in our community and supporting the Lansing Art Gallery and Education Center.

“People come to philanthropy in a lot of different ways,” she said. “I never thought about myself as a philanthropist until just recently.”

Kern said supporting the Lansing Art Gallery and Education Center is meaningful to her. “I hope more people would ask themselves, ‘What do the arts mean to me and to my family and children?’ That helps us think about the importance of giving back to causes that are vital to each of us.”

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