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ATL Business Chronicle Maria's Metro

Column: Atlanta Ballet on firm footing, has record ticket sales

By Maria Saporta
Published in the Atlanta Business Chronicle on April 11, 2014

Stability is a word that defines the Atlanta Ballet

Arturo Jacobus, who has served as the Atlanta Ballet’s executive director since December 2009, has signed on for another five-year contract — this time for the more aptly titled role of president and CEO.

In addition to Jacobus, the Atlanta Ballet also has secured three-year contract extensions with John McFall, its artistic director, who will celebrate his 20th anniversary with the Company in the fall; and with Sharon Story, dean of the Centre for Dance Education, who is celebrating 18 years with the organization.

Such longevity is rare among artistic and management teams in cultural organizations.

“We have come a long way,” said Jacobus, who credited the community for galvanizing support behind the Atlanta Ballet in a successful $20.7 million campaign that had an initial goal of $14.8 million. “We have been able to distinguish ourselves artistically and build our brand. Our audiences are enjoying what we are doing. We had record ticket sales for the last two years running. But there’s a long way to go.”

In an interview, Jacobus talked about a three- to five-year plan to increase the endowment of the Atlanta Ballet, to start touring the Company and to continue to broaden its base among donors and audiences.

“I think five years a good time span,” Jacobus said. “We have $3 million in endowment assets right now. At the very least, we would like to have an endowment that’s equal to the size of our budget, and that’s about $10 million.”

The Atlanta Ballet, founded in 1929, is considering another fundraising campaign, and increasing its endowment likely will be part of that. Jacobus said the Company also wants to continue to build the brand nationally and internationally.

“The work is never done,” Jacobus said. “We want to be financially stable and sustainable, and we want to have cash reserves so we can take advantage of artistic innovation opportunities that come our way.”

At 73, Jacobus shows no signs of slowing down. Even though their family members mostly live on the West Coast, Jacobus and his wife are empty nesters and have enjoyed getting to know Atlanta.

“I’m really enjoying the work and the people I work with,” Jacobus said. “It’s a great Company. Atlanta is a friendly place and a major city with great restaurants. My wife and I have grown very fond of the place.”

When asked about his five year contract, Jacobus added half-jokingly: “at least five years. That’s just the life of the contract.”

In five years, Jacobus will be 78, but there are no signs of him slowing down.

“As long as I’m enjoying it and as long as I’m capable,” he said, “there’s no reason not to do it.”

Flannery O’Connor’s spirit

Fifty years ago, Georgia author Flannery O’Connor passed away. But her spirit lives on within the walls and on the grounds of Andalusia Farm, her final home and the inspiration for many of her stories.

Andalusia Farm, which is located just outside of Milledgeville, Ga., now has a new management team looking after the historic property.

Elizabeth Wylie, a museum professional, art historian, preservationist and sustainability expert, has been named executive director of the Flannery O’Connor-Andalusia Foundation. She moved from Boston to Milledgeville earlier this year.

She succeeded Craig Amason, the first executive director of the foundation, who began the restoration of the farm in 2001. He resigned last year to become a special assistant to the president of Piedmont College in Demorest, Ga.

April Moon Carlson, who most recently worked with the National Park Service, joined the foundation in March as operations and visitors services manager. Andalusia Farm welcomes about 5,000 visitors a year from all over the world.

Atlanta businesswoman and philanthropist Paula Lawton Bevington is chair of the foundation.

Science festival a success

The inaugural Atlanta Science Festival has been declared a success, drawing more than 30,000 attendees during the eight-day event in late March.

The weeklong event culminated with the Science Expo on Saturday, March 29, when 16,000 people came to the Georgia World Congress Center to experience a myriad of demonstrations including racing robot roaches and touching a human brain at the Atlanta chapter of the Society for Neuroscience and the Center for Behavioral Neuroscience exhibit.

“When we opened the doors at the Expo on Saturday and the people flooded in, I cried,” said Meisa Salaita, festival co-founder and the director of education, outreach and diversity for the NSF/NASA Center for Chemical Evolution. “While I knew Atlanta was ready for something like this, I honestly wasn’t expecting the level of hunger people had for science in this region.”

David Hartnett, chair of the 2014 Atlanta Science Festival and vice president of economic development, bioscience and health IT sector at the Metro Atlanta Chamber, agreed.

“The Festival reached thousands of children in metro Atlanta, helping them realize career possibilities in science and technology,” Hartnett said. “The Festival raised the profile of STEM education and demonstrates that we have a vibrant, future work force poised for high-quality science and technology jobs, which is a big draw for companies in our region. The support of founding partners Georgia Tech and Emory University, which have nationally ranked science programs, was instrumental in making all of this happen.”

Oz Nelson to be honored.

Retired United Parcel Service Inc. CEO Kent C. “Oz” Nelson will receive the third lifetime achievement award for Leadership Character from the Turknett Leadership Group at the 11th annual luncheon on Sept. 24. Turknett has partnered with the Robert K. Greenleaf Center for Servant Leadership for the awards luncheon, which will be held at the Sheraton Hotel in downtown Atlanta.

Nelson served as chairman and CEO of UPS from November 1989 to December 1996, and he led the company during the relocation of its headquarters from Greewich, Conn., to Atlanta in 1991.

Nelson has taken on several civic roles in Atlanta, and he currently serves as board chair of The Carter Center. He also has served on the boards of United Way of America, the CDC Foundation, the Annie E. Casey Foundation and the Metro Atlanta Chamber among a host of other organizations. Nelson also served as an adviser for the Turknett Leadership Character Awards for 10 years.

Mercy Care

WINGS for Mercy Care, the volunteer fundraising arm of Mercy Foundation, celebrated the 25th anniversary of the Wings of Mercy Ball on March 29 — raising $330,000 to help the medical needs of the homeless and uninsured in Atlanta.

This year’s fundraising event was led by co-chairs Kristina Blass and Carmen Titelman, and the Mercy Care Ball was presented by Georgia Power at the St. Regis Atlanta.

The speakers included Ricky Alexander, Mercy Care’s outreach specialist, who shed light on the homeless who are living under Interstate 20 and are now benefiting from a new Street Medicine Program.

WINGS members raise awareness and financial support for Mercy Care whose mission is to provide health-care services to poor and underserved communities of Atlanta.

Maria Saporta

Maria Saporta, Editor, is a longtime Atlanta business, civic and urban affairs journalist with a deep knowledge of our city, our region and state.  Since 2008, she has written a weekly column and news stories for the Atlanta Business Chronicle. Prior to that, she spent 27 years with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, becoming its business columnist in 1991. Maria received her Master’s degree in urban studies from Georgia State and her Bachelor’s degree in journalism from Boston University. Maria was born in Atlanta to European parents and has two young adult children.


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