Christel DeHaan Family Foundation (CDFF) was founded by Christel Dehaan, an accomplished businesswoman, community leader, and philanthropist who emigrated from Germany to the United States in 1962. As cofounder of Resort Condominiums International (RCI), she was widely known for her contributions to the travel and tourism industry. The foundation was created in 1993 as the RCI Foundation. Following the sale of RCI in 1996, DeHaan reorganized it as the private family foundation (CDFF) in 1997. After that time, DeHaan devoted her time, energy, and financial resources to philanthropy. Her other primary focus was Christel House International, the global children’s charity she founded in 1998 to help impoverished children break the cycle of poverty.

A group of young people gather around a woman sitting in a chair.
Christel DeHaan at the Christel House International, 2019 Credit: Christel House View Source

The Foundation made grants to entities that offered valuable contributions to the development and enhancement of the arts in central Indiana, with a specific focus on the Indianapolis community. Both DeHaan, before her death, and the Foundation provided support to world-class arts venues in Indianapolis, including the Christel Dehaan Fine Arts Center at the University Of Indianapolis that houses a two-tiered Ruth Lilly Performance Hall, a superior art gallery, practice rooms, art studios, and classroom and a lecture hall equipped with state-of-the-art learning technology, and the Christel DeHaan Theatre at The Cabaret that is dedicated to the art of cabaret performance.

Much of the Foundation’s annual philanthropic resources were dedicated to the provision of general operating support grants to professional performing arts companies. CDFF provided support to a wide range of arts organizations that produced excellent and diverse artistic products. Supported programs include:

  • The DeHaan Artist of Distinction Award is a juried fast-track project grant award program administered by the ARTS COUNCIL OF INDIANAPOLIS to support professional artists and high-quality contemporary visual art projects.
  • The Christel DeHaan Classical Fellowship awarded to the winner of the AMERICAN PIANISTS ASSOCIATION Classical Awards, providing cash and two years of career advancement, including the opportunity to serve as an Artist-in-Residence at the University of Indianapolis.
  • The Christel DeHaan Visiting International Theatre Artist (VITA) program at BUTLER UNIVERSITY. Launched in 2011, the VITA program brings world-class international artists to Butler for 8 to 10 weeks every other year to teach students, provide special masterclasses and educational seminars for local artists, and design or direct a production for the Indianapolis community.

The Foundation believed that it is essential to provide philanthropic resources to foster the artistic excellence of artists living and working in Indiana.

In November 2023, the Christel DeHaan Family Foundation distributed $55 million to spend itself down to zero following the instructions that DeHaan made to its board to donate the entirety of its resources three years after her death. She died in June 2020. The money was distributed in the form of grants to arts organizations, the University of Indianapolis, and nonprofits for the support the military and their families, former prison inmates, HIV prevention, and animal conservation. The Indianapolis Chamber Orchestra, the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra, Newfields, and the Indiana Repertory Theatre each received $2.75 million, which were the largest gifts of the distribution. The gift was the most meaningful for ICO. It was the largest gift that the organization had received in its 40-year history.

Revised November 2023

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