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Endowment in works

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$10M drive eyed by N.C. Blumenthal Performing Arts Center Foundation.

By Todd Cohen

CHARLOTTE, N.C. [04.21.04] — Faced with a $4.5 million endowment, one of the smallest among groups its size, the new North Carolina Blumenthal Performing Arts Center Foundation is geared to begin a drive to raise $10 million more.

The group, which will restrict use of the funds to its education institute, has received approval for the drive from the Arts & Science Council and now awaits clearance from the Charlotte Capital Campaign Planning Board.

If approved by the board, the drive will try to raise $10 million within one year.

That will include $5 million from donors in return for naming the institute or either of its two programs, and $5 million from foundations, corporations and individual donors.

The center created the foundation and transferred administration of its endowment to the Foundation for the Carolinas.

The new foundation, a supporting foundation of the Foundation for the Carolinas, has named Judith Allen, the center’s first president, as vice chair, overseeing the endowment’s development.

Allen says the endowment also will begin gearing up for a separate planned-giving effort to raise another $10 million over the long term through deferred gifts.

Edwin Rose, president of commercial builder Shelco Inc. and chair of the center and its endowment, is assembling leaders to head the endowment drive.

In addition to administering the endowment and investing its assets, the Foundation for the Carolinas will provide legal assistance and other support for the planned-giving effort.

Allen, who served as the center’s president from 1990 through last December, says it needs a bigger endowment to keep up with its growth.

The center, with a $25 million budget this fiscal year, operates Belk Theater, Booth Playhouse, McGlohan Theatre and Duke Energy Theatre, which together house 3,400 seats.

Fewer than one-fifth of those seats were named by donors during the initial campaign to raise money to build the center.

Naming the remaining seats will be a focus of the new campaign, as will naming the center’s 10-year-old education institute and its two programs.

One of those two programs integrates arts into the curriculum of elementary schools, and the other builds community partnerships to involve people in the arts.

The school program, which uses the arts to teach subjects ranging from math and science to language and social studies and also invites children to the center to attend master classes in the arts, is offered in kindergarten through grade five at Ida Rankin Elementary School in Gaston County and University Park Elementary School in Mecklenburg County.

Each school, which has had the program phased in over four to five years at an annual cost of $36,000 to $38,000 per grade per school, will serve as a model for possible expansion to other schools in both counties.

The community-partnership program works with groups in African-American, Latino, Asian, Greek and other ethnic communities that advise it on how they want to be connected to the arts.

Initiatives have included neighborhood salsa dance contests culminating in a final competition at a concert by the late Celia Cruz, and a history project featuring stories told by several generations of Soutthern white, Jewish and African-American families culminating in an exhibit tied to a performance of the musical Ragtime.

“What we are trying to do,” says Allen, “is connect with those communities in the way they want us to connect.”

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