Column: Woodruff Arts Center lands another big grant

By Maria Saporta
Published in the Atlanta Business Chronicle on Jan. 16, 2015

The good news just keeps on coming. The Woodruff Arts Center has received a $6.6 million grant from the Lettie Pate Evans Foundation to support a three-year initiative to make the center more accessible to families and students.

The Lettie Pate Evans Foundation is part of the family of foundations that includes the Robert W. Woodruff Foundation, which in December announced a grant of up to $38 million to the Woodruff Arts Center — the largest in the cultural organization’s 46-year history.

The latest grant will extend family-oriented programming and greater activation of the center’s campus, including family festivals, art-making activities, acting classes and more weekly programming.

The “Art from the Start” also will include designated family days with special access to the work of the Alliance Theatre, the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra and free admission to the High Museum of Art.

“The gifts from the Woodruff Foundation and the Lettie Pate Evans Foundation will be transformational for the Arts Center,” said Virginia Hepner, president and CEO of the Woodruff Arts Center. “The Woodruff Foundation gift will help us literally transform the Alliance Theater. The endowment matching gift will help significantly strengthen our ability to present art at the highest level for all the arts partners. And, the Lettie Pate Evans gift will allow us to open the doors to a broader community, including families and children who might otherwise never be able to experience our art.

“We are so fortunate that these foundations understand and believe in the importance of the arts and our role in helping define a great community.”

The idea behind the $6.6 million grant is to expose children to the arts at an early age so they can develop a lifelong appreciation of culture and the arts. Also, students who are exposed to the arts have been shown to perform better in school.

“We are proud to be Georgia’s largest arts educator today, but our aspiration is to become one of the state’s premier destinations for families,” said Janine Musholt, vice president of advancement for the Woodruff Arts Center. “We know that exposure to the arts benefits students in a variety of ways, from improved test scores to a better understanding of the world around them. We want to offer those benefits to Atlanta, Georgia and the entire Southeast. The Evans Foundation gift will allow us to welcome these families to our home.”

Young Audiences for Learning

Continuing the theme, Young Audiences Arts for Learning hosted a three-day national professional learning seminar at the Woodruff Arts Center starting Jan. 13 with more than 50 educators, teaching artists, school administrators and other leaders from across the country.

The intensive seminar is the first phase of a year-long initiative to revitalize the Arts for Learning curriculum, an innovative research-based literacy program that blends the creativity and discipline of the arts with learning science.

The initiative was made possible through a $300,000 grant from JCPenney Cares.

Eric Booth, an award-winning arts in education expert, faciliated the first day of the seminar, and additional sessions were led by a national professional development team that presented case studies and best practices.

In the spring, the curriculum initiative will continue with student implementation in 12 Young Audiences’ affiliate sites around the country. Each site will expand their program to include more grade levels in the fall. The Woodruff Arts Center’s Arts for Learning will be one of those sites.

Georgia Chamber names 2016 chair

As Georgia Power Co. CEO Paul Bowers took the helm as the 2015 chairman of the Georgia Chamber on Jan. 13, it was announced that Hank Linginfelter will become chair in 2016. Linginfelter is executive vice president of distribution operations at AGL Resources Inc.

A couple of interesting observations: Two of the state’s largest and oldest utilities are filling the chairman’s role back-to-back. Both Georgia Power and Atlanta Gas Light are more than 100 years old — appropriate for a year that the Georgia Chamber is celebrating its own centennial.

Also, the last executive from AGL to serve as chair of the Georgia Chamber was Suzanne Sitherwood, who was the first (and still the only) woman to chair the business organization in 2010.

Another notable fact: In 2010, Hank Linginfelter’s brother — Bill Linginfelter, an executive with Regions Bank — was chairing the Metro Atlanta Chamber. The Metro Chamber and the Georgia Chamber arguably are the two most influential business organizations in the state.

“It’s so good to be working at this level with the 100-year celebration and with Georgia being the best state in the country to do business,” Hank Linginfelter said in a quick interview at the Eggs & Issues breakfast on Jan. 13.

When asked about his brother, Hank pointed out that Bill only chaired the Metro Atlanta Chamber. “I’ve got the whole state,” he said jokingly.

Other members joining Bowers on the 2015 executive committee are Chris Clark, CEO of the Georgia Chamber; Ernest Greer of Greenberg Traurig, who is immediate past chair; Linginfelter; Kevin Greiner of Gas South, who is chairing administrative services; and Beth Shiroishi of AT&T, who is chairing the Chamber’s Center for Competitiveness.

PACE Academy and Center for Civil and Human Rights

PACE Academy has become the first affiliate partner of the Center for Civil and Human Rights–with both institutions saying there are numerous areas of potential collaboration.

Pace Academy said the partnership was part of its mission to create prepared, confident citizens of the world.

The center opened in downtown Atlanta in June of 2014. It connects the American Civil Rights Movement to today’s global human rights movements. Through exhibitions and programming it strives to “empower people to take the protection of every human’s rights personally,” a mission that resonates with Pace Academy’s core value of “respect for others and their unique ideas and beliefs.”

The multi-year agreement will create a collaborative environment between the center and Pace Academy’s faculty, staff and students, providing opportunities in the areas of education, special programming, customized experiences and professional development.

“Pace Academy and the Center share a deep commitment to fostering a love of learning, promoting innovation and attaining high standards of achievement,” said Rick Holifield, Pace Academy’s director of diversity, in a statement. “This partnership will support the goals of our Diversity Action Plan by nurturing multicultural teaching, multicultural curriculum, and cultural dexterity for our faculty and students. I look forward to building a close working relationship that is sure to benefit both organizations.”

Specifically, the partnership will include frequent, age-appropriate visits to the center for Pace Academy students, as well as admissions and membership discounts for Pace Academy families. The center also will assist Pace Academy faculty with curriculum development.

“The Center strives to educate and inspire future generations so that they may go on to be the next change agents of our society,” says Doug Shipman, CEO of the Center. “We are thrilled to join in partnership with Pace Academy to help empower the next generation of civic leaders and human rights defenders in the fight for equality for all people.”

Fox Theatre Institute

The Fox Theatre Institute has awarded $10,000 to the Holly Theatre in Dahlonega to allow for restoration, preservation and future planning of the community theatre.

Funds from the grant will focus on masonry for three sides of the building and an environmentally conscious retrofit of Holly Theatre’s marquee.

The sign will be painted and fixed to feature new LED bulbs. The entire project will take up to eight weeks and will be completed by June 30.

“The Holly Theatre has a long history of being an economic engine in the downtown Dahlonega area and we are excited about the opportunity to help boost their arts program,” said Molly Fortune, director of restoration and operations at the Fox Theatre Institute. “When the Fox was in trouble 40 years ago, the Atlanta community rallied together to ‘Save the Fox’. Now we have the knowledge and resources to help other venues in Georgia not only restore their buildings, but also strengthen their communities.”

This is not the first time the Fox Theatre has worked with the Holly Theatre. The Fox assisted with strategic planning and has been a large resource for the theatre for more than five years.

“The Holly Theatre is one of Dahlonega’s most precious cultural treasures, and its impact on the downtown business economy is enormous,” said Joel Cordle, who oversees Dahlonega’s Main Street program and is executive director of the Dahlonega Downtown Development Authority (DDA).

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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