Arts Alliance Increases Goal to $15 Million


Amid rumors that some of its wealthiest donors are backing out of pledges, the fund-raising arm of the Civic Arts Plaza assured nearly 100 members at an annual meeting Thursday that finances are in good shape.

Unable to discuss specific allegations because of confidentiality rules, officials of the nonprofit Alliance for the Arts told supporters that donors have pledged more than $10 million and the group now seeks to raise another $5 million.

"It has been the policy to carefully manage all records and relationships," Steve Woodworth, the outgoing alliance chairman, told members.

"It [also] has been our policy to make adjustments to individual pledges when necessary and appropriate," he said.

Last week, Councilwoman Elois Zeanah said she was told that millionaire Charles E. Probst--the namesake of the city's 1,800-seat performing arts center--had backed away from a $2-million gift he promised a year ago to be paid to the alliance over a period of four years.

Alliance officials have downplayed the speculation, but also have declined to say whether Probst and other donors are keeping up with pledge payments.

However, the group did release an annual report Thursday that indicates the alliance has more than $2.3 million on deposit with the Ventura County Community Foundation, which manages investments for a range of agencies, and another $259,925 in cash on hand.

The alliance is committed to paying the city $250,000 a year for operating and maintaining the facility.

Total cash pledges have surpassed $8.3 million, with another $2.4 million in deferred and in-kind donations, according to the annual report, which covers the fiscal year that ended Sept. 30. Of the $8.3 million in cash pledges, more than $3.6 million already has been paid to the alliance.

During the past fiscal year, the group collected another $1 million in pledges and saw the membership climb to 516, including 38 new sign-ups, alliance officials said.

"Although this was a year of transition, I still believe it was a year of results," Woodworth said.

Alliance members--along with two City Council members who attended the meeting--said they are proud of their accomplishments.

Since the grand opening of the Civic Arts Plaza last October, more than 250,000 visitors have attended nearly 400 performances in the plaza's two theaters. Another 50,000 school children have seen shows at the arts plaza.

"We have gone through a major evolution and we will continue to evolve," alliance board member Robert E, Lewis said. "In my mind, that's what it's all about."

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