Shelley Frost Rubin

Shelley Frost Rubin

Founder and Chair

Philanthropist and cultural leader Shelley Rubin believes that art and cultural enrichment have the power to change lives in straightforward, practical ways.

In 2004, Shelley and Donald Rubin opened the Rubin Museum of Art in New York City, with the aim of building a broad and thoughtful audience for art from the Himalayas, India, and the surrounding regions. Now entering its second decade, the Museum offers a wide range of cultural and educational programs aimed at contextualizing the museum’s collections for an audience of both adults and students. It is at the same time an international center for the study and presentation of Himalayan art—a resource for scholars worldwide. From the outset, Shelley was committed to creating a uniquely welcoming and peaceful environment, with richly colored spaces that are by turns both intimate and dramatic. Her determination to make RMA both a meditative oasis in the city and a vibrant community institution has resulted in a place enlivened by creative programming, where traditional arts intersect with contemporary photography, video, and installation.

As co-chair of the Shelley & Donald Rubin Foundation and board member of THIRTEEN/WNET and Human Rights Watch, Shelley has supported numerous cultural and humanitarian projects that use art and culture to make lives concretely better all over the world. The Foundation funds specific arts initiatives, such as residencies that bring artists working in the Himalayan region and in Cuba to the Vermont Studio Center. It also invests in a number of web-based educational resources such as Arts of the Islamic World, Himalayan Art Resources, and Treasury of Lives. These projects bring cultures together by archiving and presenting vast amounts of biographical, historical and iconographic data so that it is available for any curious person to access worldwide. The Foundation’s commitment to the practical application of art is probably best represented by Music and Memory, an initiative that promotes access to personalized music to improve the health and quality of life for the elderly and infirm.

Shelley’s drive to actively understand and promote artists who use their creativity in the service of social change led to the founding of A Blade of Grass in 2011. The organization seeks to better understand how artists can illuminate and engage with social issues, expand the relationship between art and life, and build new audiences.