The Annual 2012

School of Visual Arts

Funding for Healing

David Wasserman

In 2010, retired financier David Wasserman founded the nonprofit Art Therapy Outreach Center (ATOC) at the School of Visual Arts, funding it through his JADE Foundation. Here, therapists lead free programs for groups of New Yorkers, including children, veterans and trauma victims. In the short time the center has existed, hundreds of people have already found help, and there are plans to double the number of clients it serves.

When, in fall 2011, ATOC opened its doors in an office space donated by SVA, reporter Melanie Grayce West profiled Wasserman for the Wall Street Journal:

‘I don’t like fox-hunt pictures,’ says Mr. Wasserman, 57 years old and retired from a career in the financial-services sector, including serving as chief executive of Zurich Alternative Asset Management.

So sometime back in the mid-1990s, as he was setting up an office downtown, he decided it would be a better use of company money to make a donation to a needy charity and get art on loan in return. His company made a gift to New York City’s Coalition for the Homeless and some of the nonprofit’s clients created art. It was a success. ‘We got some interesting, nice and different art,’ he recalls.

In 2007, at a different office on 17th Street, he employed his art-acquisition strategy again, this time making an out-of-the-blue call to the neighboring School of Visual Arts. The school suggested art from its art-therapy program and Mr. Wasserman agreed.

The art from the therapy program wasn’t exactly suitable to an office, he says. As he recalls, it was ‘angry.’

But art therapy—a tool used by some psychotherapists to help people access and talk about traumatic memories in a different way—was something that intrigued Mr. Wasserman. For several years, the nonprofit arm of his company informally funded an art-therapy program at the School of Visual Arts for female veterans.

When Mr. Wasserman retired in 2010, he decided to take that funding to the next level and founded the nonprofit Art Therapy Outreach Center (ATOC) at the School of Visual Arts. He has funded the program through his JADE Foundation, an acronym comprised of the first initials of his family: children, Jonathan and Alison, and his wife of 32 years, Ellen.

Funding Art Therapy for Veterans and Trauma Victims