In what one official described as a watershed moment for the Woodruff Arts Center, a campaign that will solidify the center’s long-term financial standing has raised $110 million in less than two years. That is $10 million more than the goal set for Woodruff’s Transformation Campaign when it began in 2014.
Of that money, about $35 million will be used to pay for capital expenses, including the new Alliance Theatre main stage facility that is slated to begin construction next year, the remodeling of the High Café and a new roof for the Stent Family Wing of the High Museum of Art.
In addition, another $65 million will be put into an endowment for the organizations the Woodruff Arts Center oversees: the Alliance, the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra and the High Museum. Other monies will be spent on free family program on Sundays, access needs such as providing free Wi-Fi in public areas of the campus, and maintenance on the campus buildings.
“I’m immensely grateful to a lot of people and a lot of organizations,” Virginia A. Hepner, president and chief executive officer of the Woodruff Arts Center, said in a phone interview. “There’s such a breadth of donors, people who gave everything from $5 to $44 million. That’s fantastic. We received 21 donations of over $1 million. I’m grateful for the community’s response.”
Hepner said a successful campaign was crucial to Woodruff’s future. “It’s very positive to our long-term health,” she said. “The symphony is certainly more stable. The Alliance will be an even better experience for the audience. The High continues to get a lot of amazing programs. We have to raise money in order to meet the artistic demands. This makes us more stable and gives us more freedom.”
Three major gifts helped put the campaign over the top, led by the Coca-Cola Company. Coke made a “multi-million dollar” donation to the renovation of the Alliance’s main theater, which will be named The Coca-Cola Stage when the facility re-opens in the fall of 2018.
“As a result of this transformation, the Alliance is going to be able to offer our patrons and our artists an iconic and defining space in which to experience and make theater,” Susan V. Booth, Jennings Hertz Artistic Director, said in a press release. Work on the new space will begin next spring. “How incredibly fitting to be able to name that space in recognition of one of Atlanta’s most iconic and defining community partners, The Coca-Cola Company. We are deeply grateful to them for their extraordinary generosity, and for the army of Alliance supporters who have brought us to this fantastic moment.”
Woodruff also received a $1 million contribution from the City of Atlanta. And, as was reported last week, the Delta Air Lines Foundation pledged $2.5 million to the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra’s Musicians’ Endowment Fund in a campaign that raised $25 million to permanently endow 11 musician positions.
Hepner said she thinks the success of the Transformation Campaign will be looked back upon as a “watershed moment” for Woodruff. “This was the first unified campaign for all the partners at Woodruff,” she said. “The Alliance will have a brand new theater for the first time in nearly 50 years. That’s magnificent. That’s phenomenal. I believe the campaign will be recognized as a stepping stone to greater artistic and education achievement for years to come.”
She praised Mayor Kasim Reed for the City of Atlanta’s contribution. “Mayor Reed really cares about the arts,” Hepner said. “He understands what an enormous asset the arts center is to Atlanta.”
In a press release, Reed noted that the great cities of the world make significant investments in their arts and culture. “Atlanta should be no different,” Reed said. “We’re fortunate to have the Woodruff Arts Center, which has been bringing world-class art and arts education to Atlanta for nearly 50 years as a centerpiece of our thriving arts community. Providing this support to the arts center is both a privilege and a responsibility, and we are pleased to have been able to contribute to this vital campaign.”
Donors who gave over $1 million included the Robert W. Woodruff Foundation, the Lettie Pate Evans Foundation, Anne Cox Chambers, the James M. Cox Foundation, The Coca-Cola Company, Delta Air Lines, the Kendeda Fund, the Zeist Foundation, the UPS Foundation, the Abraham J. and Phyllis Katz Foundation, The Marcus Foundation, Kathy and Ken Bernhardt, the City of Atlanta, Connie and Merrell Calhoun, Sally and Carl Gable, Nancy and Holcombe T. Green, Joy and Tony Greene, Lila and Doug Hertz, Sarah and Jim Kennedy, Lucy and Gary Lee, Marianna and Solon Patterson, Wilbur and Hilda Glenn Family Foundation, Carla and Leonard Wood, and the estate of Betty Holland.
“The success of our campaign speaks volumes about the generosity of our donors and the importance of the arts to our community,” said Doug Hertz, chair of the Woodruff Arts Center Board of Trustees. “On behalf of everyone who worked on this campaign, I want to say, ‘Thank you’ to our donors for everything they have done.”
Anne Cox Chambers served as honorary chair of the Transformation Campaign and Hertz as the campaign’s chair.
Hepner said this is only the first phase of Woodruff’s plan to raise money to transform its campus and its offerings. But she said the specifics of those campaigns have yet to be finalized. “We have three phases of wish lists,” Hepner said. “We’re constantly talking to our partners about what they need and what they want. I’m sure there will be other phases, but we haven’t defined it yet.”