ArtsATL > Music > $1.5 million for ASO and High; Atlanta Opera “here to stay” with $9 million from benefactor

$1.5 million for ASO and High; Atlanta Opera “here to stay” with $9 million from benefactor

Update, 2/25/2011:

The late Barbara Stewart’s will includes $1.5 million for the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra in unrestricted funds, and an equal amount for the High Museum of Art. This news comes just after the Atlanta Opera announced Stewart’s game-changing $9 million gift. Stewart was a member of the High and an ASO subscriber for two decades and gave generously to both institutions over the years.

“Every city should be so fortunate as to have a champion such as Barbara Stewart,” said ASO President Stanley Romanstein. “The legacy she is leaving the Atlanta Opera is remarkable, and to extend her enthusiasm and her generosity to the orchestra and the High Museum only reinforces the thriving arts scene in this great city. We are immensely honored by her trust in our work, and grateful for the many opportunities this gift will provide.”

Our original story, posted 2/17/2011:

Last month, Dennis Hanthorn, general director of the Atlanta Opera, told me that the company was edging toward financial stability after several years of hardship. But he emphasized that they were not in the clear: “If we have one mistake, it’s over. That’s how close we are,” he said. “I’m honest about it, I’m being transparent: we need to raise more money.”

Barbara D. Stewart

On Thursday, the opera announced significant breathing room: a $9 million gift from the will of Barbara D. Stewart, a corporate economist who joined the opera board in 1994 and who died of lung cancer December 27, 2010, at just 66. It’s the single largest gift in the opera’s 31-year history.

Opera board Chairman Greg Johnson described Stewart’s gift as “transformative.”

“It means that this company, which has survived its fair share of financial predicaments, is here to stay,” Johnson continued. “There is no doubt that this gift will serve as a catalyst for all fund-raising efforts going forward. This bequest is a phenomenal example of how one individual can make an enormous impact on an arts organization and on the community. We will be eternally grateful for this loving act by our friend Barbara.”

Stewart’s will stipulates that half the money goes into the endowment. The opera’s board decided to split the remainder between endowment and cash reserves. The opera will dedicate one production each season to her memory, starting with Gershwin’s “Porgy and Bess,” which opens February 26.

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