Keeping business in Lexington turns on whether or not the community is willing to provide its residents with a "quality of life that includes artistic and cultural enrichment activities, bottom-lined Sam Barnes as the Fifth Third Bank president announced at a November 13 press conference a major gifts fund-raising campaign for the Lexington Philharmonic Orchestra. The silent campaign has been quietly underway for just over a year and with major assistance for a $500,000 matching grant from the W. Paul and Lucille Caudill Little Foundation, has reached 56 percent of its goal to boost the Orchestra's endowment by $2 million over the next two years.
"The Philharmonic truly is the cornerstone of this community, said Sharon Reed, chair of the Philharmonic Foundation. "One of the things that businesses always ask when someone is being solicited to consider this city is. Do you have a symphony? Do you have a philharmonic? That's something that we can confidently say yes, at least 45 years strong, well-supported in the community, and we want to make sure it keeps going, she said.
"The overriding thing that I wanted to do when I came here, Philharmonic Music Director George Zack recalled of his arrival in 1972, "was to start a foundation fund drive. It's never been the right time. Finally, the board this year said, it's the right time.
That turn of events was precipitated by the results of a feasibility study funded with an $8,000 nonprofit management iniative grant from the Blue Grass Community Foundation.
According to a report provided by fundraising and campaign counselor Robert Lewis, chairman and CEO of Global Advancement, LLC, $1,121,250 had been raised by early fall. With the November 13 press conference, the Philharmonic Fund went public with its campaign, announcing that it is seeking the remaining $878,750 with the aim of establishing an endowment that will enable the Philharmonic to rely on the interest to "offset costs for educational and concert opportunities. Plans call for expanding the orchestra's touring efforts and such school programs as "instrument petting zoos'' and artist visits.
"This is a tremendous opportunity for what has to be Lexington's flagship arts organization, offered LexArts president and CEO Jim Clark. "We fully support this effort to make sure that the rising tide lifts all boats. I think success in this will bring success for other organizations that are trying to expand their services. Citing what he called Commerce Lexington's "drumbeat for a regional approach", Clark said he considers it the future of Lexington-based arts organizations to serve central and eastern Kentucky.
According to the Philharmonic organization, the orchestra and its programs reach more than 2 million Kentuckians in Fayette and 41 surrounding counties.
The Lexington Opera House Fund in September also launched a drive to raise $1.5 million for capital improvements. It too, had received a $500,000 matching grant from the Caudill Little Fund, seemingly setting in motion a competition for philanthropic dollars. But Barnes was confident that Lexington can support both nonprofit assets. "We are competing, but we aren't competing. I think the orchestra has a lot of support when you look at what we've raised in just a short time. I see both of them as being very successful campaigns. The Opera House is also very important to our community. With a smile, Barnes added, "One of the problems in the past has been how uncomfortable it is in those seats, and I will be looking forward to some renovation there because my legs don't fit!
"That's bricks and mortar, added Reed. "We're trying to bring something that is an enjoyment, a pleasure, to the community. We have supported the opera House and it is important to us to see that the opera House endowment is successful."
Again, the bottom line from Sam Barnes: "If your question is, Is there a million dollars in the community to support the two? There is."
Individuals and businesses can contribute to the campaign through gifts of cash, charitable remainder trusts, appreciated stock, and life insurance policies. A newly formed Fortissimo Society is a group of contributors of $5,000 or more to the Philharmonic. For additional information, call (859) 233-4226 or visit the philharmonic's web site at www.lexphil.org.