Cultural Center breaks silence on ambitious fund raising goal

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By Patrick Yost


When the Madison–Morgan Cultural Center held its ‘Sippin & Celebratin’ event to honor the center’s 40th anniversary, founding board member Christine Lambert was ready to talk about something she and others had been working on “quietly,” she said, for most of the year.

The cultural center, the grand dame of repurposed structures and an innovator for arts programing across the state, needed some work done. The board had paid $8,000 to determine the scope of damage the 40 years had worked on the 1895 landmark building.

Basically, Lambert says, the result was $2 million in repairs and renovations.”We took a big gulp at the board meeting,” she says.

Then the board got to work.

By the time the ‘Sippin’ & Celebratin’ event, Lambert announced that through the “quiet’ phase more than $1.3 million had been raised in less than a year. The center applied for and received a $230,000 ‘Grants to Green’ grant from the Community Foundation of Atlanta. When asked, 100 percent of the board of trustees donated to the effort, as did 25 percent of former trustees, some living far, far away.

As did 100 percent of the center’s staff.

At the celebration Lambert said she coerced another $3,500 from people attending the function and she was not alone. Another $100,000 has been raised.

And, says Lambert and Board Member Ruth Bracewell, the money has been gleefully spent.

All 110 windows at the former school building were removed, repaired and replaced. The project involved building a carpentry shop on the center’s grounds. Foam insulation has been sprayed into the building as part of a $21,500 Green Cities Foundation grant promoting energy efficiency that also included LED lighting and other efficient technologies.

On Thursday the center received a $25,000 donation from the Bank of Madison.

And while the fund raising has not been easy, the pitch has been simple, says Bracewell.

“It’s been a significant gathering place for the community for over 120 years,” she says of the Center.

At the ‘Sippin & Celebratin’ event, Jesse Freeman, a Morgan County native who know owns Milk Crate Media, a New York–based film company, spoke of how the center and the performances and art exhibits shaped his life, changed his perspective, allowed him to dream.

Donors, Lambert says, “look at it as an institution that contributes to the community.

So the community has been contributing back. But, the venerated Lambert says, there is still work to be done, approximately $600,000 worth of improvements and renovations. The front porch of the building needs to be removed, repaired and replaced. A landscaping plan needs to be established and implements. Storm windows, part of the energy efficiency effort, are to be installed along with new awnings. The exterior brick needs to be cleaned.

So, says Lambert and Bracewell, the quiet phase of fundraising is over. The metaphorical bell at the 1895 institution is now being rung, calling patrons to her side.

Still, $600,000 is a lot of money.

They’re not phased, however.

“Of course we’ll do it,” says Lambert.

“Absolutely,” says Bracewell.

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