Agreement ensures future public access to world class sculptures

[caption id="attachment_22152" align="alignright" width="288" caption="Photos Courtesy of Oliver Ranch Foundation: Cylindrical tower by artist Ann Hamilton; Steel Blocks by artist Richard Serra; Steps by artist Bruce Nauman; Building by artist Martin Puryea"][/caption]

SANTA ROSA — A novel agreement between the Community Foundation Sonoma County and the Oliver Foundation will keep an artistic enclave operating for both  public and private benefit for years to come – with more attractive tax benefits and less onerous regulation.

Through its legal structure of being a “supporting organization” to the Community Foundation, the newly formed Oliver Foundation benefits both the Olivers and the Community Foundation more so than a conventional private foundation.

Barbara Hughes, president and chief executive officer of the Community Foundation Sonoma County, said supporting organizations can be a better option for those with philanthropic intentions.

“They are hybrids in the tax world and enjoy tax and regulatory benefits that are more favorable than those afforded private foundations,” she said.

The formation of the Oliver Foundation will permit the Community Foundation to eventually inherit the vast collection and commissioned land at the Oliver Ranch in Geyserville, renowned for its collection of high-profile sculptures by influential artists.

The Community Foundation has other supporting organization relationships with Pepperwood Reserve, Chop’s Teen Center and Sonoma Paradiso.

The deal between Steven Oliver, who with his wife, Nancy, has become a well-known art collector, and the Community Foundation means that the ranch will remain available for public viewing in perpetuity.  Mr. Oliver previously has been the chairman of the board at San Francisco Museum of Modern Art and has served on the Smithsonian board.

Numerous legal distinctions exist between private foundations, donor-advised foundations and supporting organizations.

For example, a supporting organization of a community foundation can issue grants to a broad spectrum of charities with little constraint beyond the donor’s philanthropic interest.

Income tax deductions for supporting organizations are also more favorable under the law, as a deduction for contributions made to a private foundation is limited to 20 percent of the donor’s adjusted gross income in a year. By contrast, a similar contribution made to a supporting organization can be deducted from up to 30 percent of a donor’s adjusted gross income in a year.

In addition, “the deduction for contributions of closely held business interests and real property to a private foundation is limited to the donor’s basis, while the deduction for the same contribution to a supporting organization will equal the asset’s full fair market value,” stated a letter by an attorney who drafted the agreement between the Olivers and the Community Foundation.

A total of approximately $25 million will go toward the agreement, called the Legacy Plan.

“A large part of that is the property and art,” said J Mullineaux, vice president for development for the Community Foundation. “There is an endowment that will support the future operation of the ranch, which might include future commissioning.”

The Olivers will continue to operate the ranch and all commissions in their lifetimes, Mr. Mullineaux said. “The endowment is invested with the Community Foundation and will remain untouched during the Olivers' lifetimes so that it can grow,” he said.

The 100-acre ranch, which houses works from world-renowned artists such as Bruce Nauman, is often used as a fundraising venue for other nonprofits in the North Bay, with about 30 private tours conducted annually. A limited number of performances also take place for similar fundraising purposes. The artwork is commissioned, created and placed at a specific location on the ranch, and artists use a guest house – which itself is considered an architectural work of art designed by Jim Jennings – as a residence to create the art.

Operating costs for the ranch are approximately $300,000 a year. The newly formed Oliver Ranch will have a board of directors consisting of Mr. and Ms. Oliver; Ms. Hughes; Jean Schulz, president of the Charles M. Schulz Museum; and John Mackie, managing partner of the Carle, Mackie, Power & Ross law firm in Santa Rosa.