Texas Cultural Trust Receives $2.5 Million Endowment To Fund Arts Scholarships for Texas Students

by Texas Cultural Trust

Austin-based arts patrons Sarah & Dr. Ernest Butler fund Texas Young Masters program, empowering the next generation of artists across the state

AUSTIN, TX [MARCH 19, 2024] – The Texas Cultural Trust (TXCT), a nonprofit increasing awareness, access, and support for the arts in Texas, announced today its largest private donation to date, coming from philanthropists Sarah and Dr. Ernest Butler. The $2.5 million gift will endow the Texas Young Masters program, a joint program between the Texas Cultural Trust and the Texas Commission on the Arts (TCA). Started in 2002, the Texas Young Masters program expands access to the arts to students across the state by providing fifteen 8th through 11th grade students with a $10,000 scholarship grant, distributed over two years, to pursue advanced study in their artistic discipline.

Sarah and Dr. Ernest Butler have been dedicated patrons of the arts in Texas since they moved to Austin in 1969. Dr. Butler has been a TXCT Board Member since 2015, and the couple received the Texas Medal of Arts in 2011 for their patronage of the arts in Texas. The Texas Medal of Arts Awards (TMAA), another TXCT program, spotlights Texas leaders and luminaries who have achieved greatness through their creative talents, as well as those whose generosity has opened doors to artistic opportunity for Texans of all ages. When Dr. Butler joined the TXCT Board of Directors, the couple endowed the Texas Young Masters Scholarship for Music. The Texas Cultural Trust, with the leadership of the new Board Chairman, Guillermo Nicolas of San Antonio, has embarked on a path to endow all TXCT programs, of which Texas Young Masters is the first. 

Additional accolades: The University of Texas Butler School of Music was recently renamed the Sarah and Ernest Butler School of Music due to the couple’s generous endowment. In 2022, the couple contributed the largest gift in company history to the Houston Grand Opera (HGO). To honor their commitment to the arts and the opera, the HGO Studio was renamed the Sarah and Ernest Butler Houston Grand Opera Studio. The couple serves on numerous boards and committees of prominent arts organizations across Austin, including Ballet Austin (part of the Butler Dance Education Center), the Blanton Museum of Art, the Austin Symphony Orchestra, and more. Because of their longstanding involvement in the arts, the Butlers have also been inducted into the Austin Arts Hall of Fame.

“The Butlers have been steadfast champions of the arts for decades, and have been instrumental in supporting our mission to help provide arts education access and foster a pipeline of vibrant Texas talent,” said TXCT CEO, Heidi Marquez Smith. “We are deeply grateful for this generous gift that will enable us to sustain this program and continue helping young artists realize their potential, achieve new heights in their artistic pursuits, and become the Texas legends of tomorrow.”

This investment will fund scholarship grants for students from a variety of artistic disciplines, including dance, theatre, musical theatre, literary arts, music, visual arts, film, and more. These Young Masters will receive $5,000 per year for two years to pursue opportunities that further their arts education. Since the program’s inception in 2002, over $1.2 million in funding has been awarded to 184 Texas students.

“We are thrilled to celebrate the artistic excellence of our Texas Young Masters and deepen our investment so that more incoming Young Masters can pursue their talents with dedicated resources and support,” said Sarah and Dr. Ernest Butler. “This endowment is a testament to our belief in the transformative power of the arts, and a commitment to nurturing the rising artists who will shape the future of Texas arts and culture.”

The Trust will be recognizing the Butlers for their gift at the upcoming Texas Young Masters celebration and awards show on April 16, 2024, at ZACH Theatre in Austin, Texas. The awards show will honor the 2024 class of Texas Young Masters, listed below:

  • Adeline Dunlap, Dance (Ballet), Allen, 9th Grade
  • Adrianna Rodriguez, Theatre, Harlingen, 11th Grade
  • Aureus Morel, Music (Composition), Cedar Hill, 11th Grade
  • Beth Anne McGowan, Dance, Dallas, 11th Grade
  • Caroline Jacobson, Music (Voice), Spring, 11th Grade
  • Eva Rami, Literary Arts, Sugar Land, 10th Grade
  • Gisele Elise Wilson, Dance (Ballet), Dallas, 8th Grade
  • Gracelyn Weber, Dance, Savannah, 10th Grade
  • Hudson Pletcher, Dance, Frisco, 11th Grade
  • Lerchen Zhong, Music (Piano), Austin, 10th Grade
  • Madelynn Mircelle Gonzalez, Musical Theatre, Brownsville, 11th Grade
  • Matthew Scott, Music (Piano), Lewisville, 11th Grade
  • Nevaeha Wilson, Music (Voice), Keene, 9th Grade
  • Saj Baldwin, Visual Arts, Houston, 9th Grade
  • Valeria Velasco, Musical Theatre, San Antonio, 8th Grade

To learn more about the Texas Cultural Trust and the Texas Young Masters celebration, please visit https://txculturaltrust.org/what-we-do/texas-young-masters/. To learn more about how you can support the TXCT visit txct.org or contact Lesley Walker at lwalker@txct.org.


About Texas Cultural Trust
Texas Cultural Trust is a 501c3 nonprofit organization dedicated to supporting and increasing access and awareness for the arts across the state. Programs of the Texas Cultural Trust include the Texas Medal of Arts Awards, Art Can, Texas Young Masters, Texas Women for the Arts, Partners in the Arts, and Arts Access. Texas Cultural Trust efforts are amplified by its partners who are instrumental in the success of leading a cohesive voice for the arts in education, advocacy, and economic impact in Texas, spotlighting the artistic excellence of our state. For more information on the Texas Cultural Trust, please visit www.txculturaltrust.org.

APC Collective

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