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VAA launches $2.5 million fundraiser

Supporters of the Vashon Center for the Arts take to the stage at VAA’s annual art auction last month. - Jeff Dunnicliff Photo
Supporters of the Vashon Center for the Arts take to the stage at VAA’s annual art auction last month.
— image credit: Jeff Dunnicliff Photo

This month Vashon Allied Arts launched an ambitious fundraising campaign to bring in the final $2.5 million required to break ground on its new performing arts center next fall.

A surprise announcement about the campaign was made at the second night of VAA’s annual auction, on Sept. 28, when a small slate of islanders took to the stage holding signs reading “Partners in the arts.”

The group included familiar supporters — Drama Dock director Gaye Detzer and Vashon Opera director Jennifer Krikawa — as well as a few from outside the arts community — Fire Chief Hank Lipe, school Superintendent Michael Soltman and chamber director Jim Marsh.

“We hope people that care about it support it,” Marsh said in an interview, noting that the chamber of commerce voted to endorse the project years ago, when VAA was in its early planning stages.

“I have every confidence that they’ll make it happen,” he said.

Indeed, after years of planning, designing and fundraising, VAA officials are proclaiming that the arts organization is nearing the final stretch in its effort to construct a $16.9 million arts center at the corner of Vashon Highway and Cemetery Road.

“The end is in sight. The eye is on the prize,” said VAA director Molly Reed.

So far VAA has brought in $10 million toward its $13.5 million fundraising goal, including $2 million it was awarded from the state earlier this year. Fundraisers expect to garner another $1 million in grants, foundation gifts or other large donations, and hope the final $2.5 million will come in the form of community donations between $5 and $50,000, said Jo Ann Bardeen, who chairs VAA’s capital campaign cabinet.

“We’re so close. It’s a reasonable amount now,” she said.

Reed said that while the project has been controversial and many were initially skeptical about VAA’s ability to fund the multi-million dollar arts campus, they believe some islanders will feel more comfortable donating now that the organization is nearing its goal. VAA hopes to raise the full $13.5 million by next summer and will borrow the remaining amount in hopes of breaking ground in the fall of 2014.

“It’s taken a long time to get here, but we’re all at a place where anybody who might still have a remaining doubt that this can happen on Vashon, hopefully they are seeing that we have $10 million against the 13.5 million goal,” she said.

In a campaign that fundraisers hope will appeal to donors at all levels, VAA will continue to hold private events in homes, follow up with potential givers and plug the campaign at island arts events.

“It’s just keeping the awareness in front of people and going back to the people we’ve already told the story to,” Bardeen said.

Larger fundraising events may take place down the road, Reed said, and the cabinet is working to finalize a fundraising brochure that will list naming opportunities in the new building. A $2,500 gift, for instance, could buy the naming rights to a seat in the theater, while larger donors could name the art gallery or the green room.

Those who give $5,000 or more will have their names listed on a donors’ wall in the new building’s lobby, Reed said, and organizers are also working with a local tile artists to develop a permanent piece for the arts center that will incorporate donor names.

“There will be opportunities for anybody at just about any level of participation to play a role in creating the building, not just people who have the means to make a major gift,” she said.

Just days after announcing the public campaign at the auction, VAA received an additional $1 million gift for the arts center from an island couple, bringing the fundraising total to $10 million.

Other than a multi-million dollar donation set up in trusts by islander and Vashon Island Chorale member Kay White — funds that will be set aside as an operational reserve — only one other donor has given at the $1 million level, Reed said. The latest gift won’t be counted as part of the $2.5 million campaign, she said, but comes as part of the additional $2 million the organization has been counting on receiving from foundation gifts, grants and other large donors.

Reed said she and others at VAA were thrilled at the donation, which came from a couple they had been in talks with for some time.

“They just felt now is the time they could make their pledge,” she said.

The couple, reached by The Beach-comber, asked to remain anonymous.

Bardeen, who is also president of the Vashon Island Chorale, said she isn’t sure how quickly VAA will raise the $2.5 million, but for the first time it looks as though the end is in sight.

“I’m feeling very optimistic and excited. We will get there sooner or later, and I hope that Kay White will one day be singing on the stage,” she said.

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