3. July 2023

From fine art and high culture to culture for all

Kavli Trust’s history is a journey from classical music and monumental works gifted to local municipalities, to interventions for inclusion and the realisation of dreams for children in three continents.

Lillehammer, November 2022: On the premises of Kulturhjerte, there is an air of excitement and enthusiasm on this particular night. Parents, grandparents and other volunteers have all met up to watch their young ones prepare for the theatre performance ”Dreamcatcher”.

60 years after Knut Kavli established Kavli Trust, Kavli is a large group that distributes its profit to realise the dreams of young people not only in Norway, but in several countries and in three continents.

Anita og de andre deltakerne i Kulturhjerte har laget sine egne drømmefangere til forestillingen ved samme navn, som har premiere i mai 2023.
DREAMCATCHERS: Anita and the other participants in Kulturhjerte have created their own dreamcatchers for the performance by the same name, which premiered in May 2023. Photo: Vivian Haverstadløkken/Kulturhjerte

The scope of the allocations was much narrower in the early years. The artist Rolf Aamot and concert pianist Jan Henrik Kayser were the first to receive a grant from Kavli Trust. In 1965 they received NOK 5,000 each, which is equivalent to NOK 56,000 today.

Shaping the foundation

“The first years after the establishment were used to build up capital and ‘find the shape’ of the new foundation”, says General Manager of Kavli Trust, Inger Elise Iversen.

The solution was a three-member board led by Knut Kavli. In accordance with the statutes, the board must allocate funds for good purposes,
manage capital and ensure that the company has a profit and a return on the shares.

Over the years, there have been some adjustments to the business model. Since 1994, a holding company, of which Kavli Trust is the sole owner, has been in charge of the Kavli Group management.

Monumental works

Kavli Trust’s purpose of allocating its entire profit to humanitarian work, research and culture has not changed since its inception.

“But the way we fulfil the purpose has changed in line with the financial situation and with the times we live in,” says Inger Elise Iversen.

In the first decades, Kavli Trust’s allocations were related to art and culture. Most of it was gifted locally, in the form of large, monumental works and grants to performers in the fields of art and classical music.

RECEIVED GRANT: (L.) Pianist Jan Henrik Kayser from Bergen. Photo: Schrøder/Sverresborg Trøndelag Folk Museum THE PRIDE OF BERGEN: (R.) Kavli Trust contributed to the decoration and completion of the Grieg Hall. Photo: Thor Brødreskift

The first major allocation took place in 1969, with NOK 50,000 towards decorating the Grieg Hall in Bergen. Kavli Trust later contributed to the completion of the city’s large concert hall.

Wider scope

Towards the end of the 1970s, the scope of the allocations widened, and included causes such as interventions for people with rheumatism and the blind, and for cultural purposes such as Bergen Folk Art and Craft Association and other interventions to promote traditional craftsmanship.

In 1983, the board decided to support a major project at the hospital called Diakonissehjemmet Hospital in Bergen. The project was at the intersection between research and humanitarian activities. This was the start of a development that gave humanitarian causes and research more weight.

Over the last two decades, humanitarian work and research have been awarded the majority of the allocations. Pure art projects and classical music have gradually been phased out.

“Today we mainly support cultural projects where music, theatre and other creative activities are used as tools for inclusion, empowerment and good mental health for children and adolescents,” says Inger Elise Iversen.

KULTURHJERTE: Kavli Trust has supported Kulturhjerte since 2019. The current funding was allocated in 2021 and will run throughout 2023. These photos are from November 2022, during preparations for the performance ”Dreamcatcher”, which premieres in May 2023. Photo: Vivian Haverstadløkken/ Kulturhjerte

International commitment

Since the 1980s, the allocation strategy and criteria have been under continuous development. This has resulted in widening the geographical scope.

“We prioritise projects in all countrieswhere the Kavli Group has operations, and over several years we have developed a strong international
commitment,” says Inger Elise Iversen.

She is proud of the Kavli Trust portfolio for international development projects.

“The first development project we supported was in Bangladesh in 2001. Since then, the foundation has supported projects in countries in Africa and Asia with NOK 330 million,” says Iversen.

Record year

Since the turn of the millennium, good results in the group have resulted in increased dividends for Kavli Trust, and with it a significant increase in allocations. In 2008, Kavli Trust distributed NOK 6 million. In subsequent years, the allocations were multiplied up to the record year 2018, when the foundation was able to distribute a total of NOK 131 million. Since then, the annual amount has been around NOK 100 million on average.

“This is money that can make a big difference to many people and communities, but it relies on using it in a smart way,” says Iversen.

“That is why we have stepped up our strategic work in recent years. In the spirit of Olav and Knut Kavli, we want to be forward-looking, innovative and in step with the times we live in, while at the same time ensuring high quality of the allocations,” says Iversen.

FESTIVAL FOR ALL: Performers from the Bergen International Festival play a concert at Løvåsen nursing home during the festival in 2017. Photo: Thor Brødreskift

Useful health research

She highlights the Kavli Trust Programme on Health Research as a success story.

“In collaboration with Dam Foundation we have ensured that the Kavli Trust research allocations go to research that has high utility value for the users,” she says.

Knut Kavli himself only lived to experience the very first allocation. In the autumn of 1965, he became seriously ill and died. But the legacy
lives on in the best of health.

“At the age of 60, Kavli Trust has become a professional owner, manager and an important contributor within our priority areas locally, nationally and internationally, states Inger Elise Iversen.