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Trading Places 

Tim Reynolds is on a mission to help great local artists from poor rural areas.  


At Ani Art Academy

“The thing that made me want to stop everything I was doing, was this,” says Tim Reynolds, co-founder and still major shareholder of Jane Street Capital, a New York-based global proprietary trading firm and one of the world’s largest market-makers, trading more than US$17 trillion of securities in 2020.  

Despite loving his job, Reynolds left Jane Street in 2012 (“it was really hard to walk away from”) but with an insatiable niggle to set up philanthropic schools, specifically, art schools, in poor rural areas.  

Part of his inspiration came from going on holiday, he recalls over Zoom, from his waterside home in New Jersey, where the sun is pouring onto the terrace. “There is a recurring problem I see all over the world at luxury resorts in remote, beautiful areas. Rich people come and stay for a week or two, but there is abject poverty half a mile away that never gets addressed. It’s not that the guests are mean-hearted, but there is no mechanism for them to support the locals.” 

Tim Reynolds

Reynolds reasoned that a way to enrich rural communities would be for local artists to show their work in luxury hotels. But it had to be in the right context or else people would be less likely to pay a good price for the art. “If you’re driving along a road in Mexico and you see a great piece of art on the side of the road, you’re not going to pay US$4,000 for it, or anywhere near that. 

“But if you could buy, for instance, a stunning picture from a great local artist, people would feel good about that. Imagine a dinner-party conversation: ‘Oh, that’s a cool painting,’ ‘Well, let me tell you the story, I met the artist, I discovered her.’ It feels good for the buyer. And I’ve seen the other side of that US$4,000 and it is transformative.” 

Reynolds began by setting up art academies to fund artists in places such as Anguilla, Sri Lanka, Dominican Republic and Thailand, as well as one in New Jersey to provide art education for military veterans and individuals with disabilities, and another in Pennsylvania to train art teachers. Each student is enrolled onto a free three-year course (even lunch is included), learning the Anthony Waichulis method, which gives hyper-realistic visual arts training designed to develop adaptable skills.  

“My goal is that every graduate leaves with a full tool box. If they want to do hyper-realism, they can; if they want to do full-on abstract, they’re going to be very good at it now.” So far there have been around 25 graduates from the programme who have gone on to be full- or part-time artists, some of whom have opened their own studios and teach; some who are selling first paintings for thousands of dollars.  

After setting up the art academies, the next step was to create a market. He coupled each art academy with a luxury all-inclusive boutique hotel close by, a collection called Àni Private Resorts. Specialising in group gatherings, milestone celebrations and multi-generational families, each resort operates with ‘whole resort booking’, from around US$5,000 a night.  

A painting by a graduate from Ani Art Academy

The walls of the resorts are hung with the apprentices’ work, and several dozen have been bought by guests with all proceeds going to the artist. Others have sold through gallery shows, including Lovetts Gallery in Tulsa, Oklahoma, Rehs Galleries in New York and Pauly Friedman Gallery in Dallas. More shows are taking place next year.  

One graduate from the programme, Kevin Moore, now teaches at Ani Art Academy America, in Red Bank, New Jersey, which is for disabled veterans and family members of veterans. Moore says: “Completing the Ani curriculum has not only allowed me to paint and draw at a higher level than I ever imagined, it has also shown me the power of deliberate practice and how I’m capable of learning so much more than I thought. While studying, I met my wife who was also an apprentice at the same time as me. After graduation I was offered a job teaching at Ani America located in Red Bank and my wife and I now live nearby in Atlantic Highlands.” 

Reynolds does not want to stop with art academies though. Through his foundation he has just committed US$2 million (US$500,000 in each destination) for school facilities and computers to local communities in each of the countries the Àni properties are situated. The initiative is to expand computer science education and improve educational facilities, such as upgrading libraries and classrooms in countries where there is an Àni resort. Construction to develop brand-new computer labs in both Anguilla and Sri Lanka will start later this year, followed by an elementary school in Rio San Juan, home to Àni Dominican Republic.  


At ANI Anguilla

Reynolds, who is wheel-chair bound, says he has always had a philanthropic slant.  But as a survivor of severe spinal-cord injuries after a car accident in 2000, he has had greater clarity about the most important things in life. “Any kind of trauma makes all the little stuff seem less important and all the important stuff seem more pressing.” In fact, all of Àni’s resorts are wheelchair-accessible, something Reynolds says is almost non-existent in the luxury resort market.  

And if purpose creates the soul of a place, then the Àni resorts and associated schools are truly soulful. In fact, the meaning inspired the name, says Reynolds. The name Àni is derived from a Swahili word njani, which means ‘to be on a journey’.  

“If someone comes through a village on their way to, say, some ancestral destination or spiritual purpose, it is said to be njani. So, it works for the resorts, as guests are traveling and getting some good stuff for their souls and relationships. Artists are on a lifelong journey of discovery and learning. We’re just getting them started with a great education.”