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The conceptual drawing for the new interior of the Alliance.

The conceptual drawing for the new interior of the Alliance.

It wasn’t an unprecedented event, but it was something of a rarity. Although the boards of the Woodruff Arts Center–affiliated programs — the Woodruff board itself, the Alliance Theatre, the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra, the High Museum of Art and Arts for Learning — meet regularly on their own, they have not met collectively for a while.

On Wednesday, the boards convened to trumpet a major announcement. The Woodruff Arts Center has launched the public phase of its $100 million Transformation Campaign, which has three goals: to increase endowments, to renovate the Alliance Theatre and Memorial Arts Building and provide easier access to the arts for families. 

More than 60 percent of the campaign has already been pledged by the likes of the Woodruff Foundation ($38 million), the Lettie Pate Evans Foundation ($6.6 million) and from Carl and Sally Gable ($1.25 million), according to Janine Musholt, vice president of advancement for the Woodruff Arts Center. 

New gifts announced Wednesday include $6.1 million from Anne Cox Chambers (who will serve as the campaign’s honorary chair) to endow the Anne Cox Chambers wing of the High Museum of Art; $4.1 million collectively from the board of the Alliance Theatre for the theater renovation and $1.25 million from the Abraham J. & Phyllis Katz Foundation for the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra’s musicians’ endowment fund.

Susan Booth

Susan Booth

Of the $100 million, $56 million will be earmarked for endowment, $9 million will be used for activation, including $6.6 million for family programming, and $35 million will go toward capital, with the bulk of that — $20 million — for Alliance Theatre renovations, the first since it opened 47 years ago. 

“All of the educational programming across campus will be more robust,” says Kristin Hathaway Hansen, the director of the Transformation Campaign. That education programming will be free, she says. “We want the Woodruff Arts Center to be a community gathering place, where everyone is welcome and all the barriers to participation are removed.” 

The theater project represents the most dramatic changes seen since the Alliance Theatre was built.

Artistic director Susan Booth says the idea for the renovation grew out of discussions anticipating the theater’s 50th anniversary. “We wanted to mark our 50th anniversary, not by ending a journey but by celebrating the achievement of some audacious goals,” she says. “We asked ourselves — what big dreams did we have?” 

Booth noted that patrons won’t walk through the current doors to celebrate the theater’s 50th anniversary. “You are going to walk into a space that in every possibly way celebrates community, that welcomes everyone whether they’ve paid a premium price for their tickets or got them from the lowest available discount. Our governing principle is multiple points of access and no visual privilege. That is revolutionary and intentional.”

The plan is to raise the money by the end of 2016 and then start renovating the theater at the end of the 2016–17 season. During the following year the Alliance will stage work elsewhere, and then be back home for the 2018–19 season.

This first phase of the campaign leans heavily toward the Alliance, but the other divisions will benefit as well, according to Randy Donaldson, communications rep for the Woodruff Arts Center. 

Besides the funding from Chambers, some smaller, short-term projects such as the renovation of the gift shop in the High are planned. “The overall campaign, the gifts we have already received, including Ms. Chamber’s gifts, all of that gives great flexibility to the High, to focus on those things that we need to focus on,” he says.

The Atlanta Symphony’s main focus is on the endowment fund for the musicians. After coming out of a lockout last fall, the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra reduced the size of its orchestra from 88 to 77. The goal moving forward, obviously, is to restore the number back, but it will take some time and more fund-raising. 

By the end of 2016, Donaldson says, the WAC wants to have raised enough money to restore six or seven of those positions and have a full 88 by 2018, when the collective bargaining agreement expires.

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