Annual Report 2010-11: Michael Lazarus and Jo Whitsell

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From the Fall 2011 Caller

Jo Whitsell and Michael Lazarus, parents of Greyson Lazarus ’23, were new to Catlin Gabel but not new to Portland. When it was time for them to move back from New York to Jo’s Portland hometown in 2010, Catlin Gabel was a clear choice.
Coming from the Packard Collegiate Institute in Brooklyn Heights, New York, Jo and Michael wanted to find a suitable fit for their son, Greyson, then entering kindergarten. They found in Catlin Gabel a balance of academic rigor and intellectual freedom for Greyson and a tight-knit, caring, and involved community of parents.
Trained as artists, Jo and Michael jumped headlong into the Campaign for Arts and Minds. They understand the importance of nurturing creativity—not only for the purpose of aesthetics, but to help our children to better compete in the job market. Michael, a Rhode Island School of Design alumnus and a Pacific Northwest College of Art faculty member, explains:
“The foremost tool that artists use in making their work is the many-faceted act of decision making. Study in the creative arts provides a foundation of critical thinking and creative problem solving. This skill applies to any career path, and gives us thoughtful and often innovative ways of looking at our world. I can’t think of any one thing more important than this to give our children as they prepare for the future.”
Having heard the vision for the project from Lark, the two decided to host an event for the Creative Arts Center at their home in the spring. They continued to carry the message among their peers and at other campaign events. Ultimately, Jo and Michael made the decision to support the Creative Arts Center at the leadership level, putting their lasting mark on the project. And all of this happened in their first year at Catlin Gabel, a testament to putting passion to work in philanthropy.