Texas Cultural Trust Receives $2.5 Million Endowment for Texas Young Masters Program

by Jessica Fuentes March 21, 2024

The Texas Cultural Trust (TXCT), a nonprofit organization supporting arts and culture throughout the state, has received a $2.5 million private donation that will endow the Texas Young Masters program.

The endowment is the largest private donation the organization has received and comes from philanthropists Sarah and Dr. Ernest Butler. The Butlers have been art patrons since moving to Austin in 1969. In 2011, the couple received the Texas Medal of Arts for their patronage. Dr. Butler has served on the board of TXCT since 2015; at that time, the pair endowed the Texas Young Masters Scholarship for Music. 

A photograph of art patrons Sarah and Dr. Ernest Butler.

Sarah and Dr. Ernest Butler

Beyond their commitment to TXCT and its programs, the Butlers serve on numerous boards and committees of Austin-area arts organizations, including Ballet Austin (part of the Butler Dance Education Center), the Blanton Museum of Art, and the Austin Symphony Orchestra. In 2008, The University of Texas named its school of music after the couple, who had given to the school for 25 years and then made a $55 million donation to it, which was one of the largest gifts by private donors to a music school (second to the Yale School of Music). Because of their longstanding commitment to the arts in Austin, they have been inducted into the Austin Arts Hall of Fame. Additionally, in 2022, they contributed the largest gift in company history to the Houston Grand Opera (HGO), and in honor of their commitment, the HGO Studio was renamed the Sarah and Ernest Butler Houston Grand Opera Studio.

TXCT’s Texas Young Masters program expands arts access to young people across Texas by providing 15 students, ranging from eighth to eleventh grade, with a $10,000 scholarship grant. The grant is distributed over two years and allows students to pursue advanced study in their artistic discipline. 

In a press release, Heidi Marquez Smith, CEO of TXCT, remarked, “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. 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.”

TXCT will recognize the Butlers at the Texas Young Masters celebration and awards show on Tuesday, April 16 at ZACH Theatre in Austin. Learn more about how you can support the program or purchase a ticket to the celebration via the TXCT website.

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Penelope Speier March 24, 2024 - 18:51

Thanks to Guillermo Nicholas for his great leadership of the TXTC!


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