A! Magazine for the Arts

ETSU Arts Initiative reaches $4.24 million

August 28, 2013

Five months after announcing plans for a new fine arts center and an expansion of arts programs, East Tennessee State University has surpassed the $4 million mark for its new arts initiative.

With two recent major gifts, funding for the initiative stands at $4.24 million.

The arts initiative was announced on Feb. 14 as ETSU learned that Gov. Bill Haslam was recommending $1.5 million be included in the state's 2013-14 budget to begin planning for an arts center at ETSU.

The facility is projected to cost $38 million, and through the arts initiative, the university intends to raise $9.5 million that will be used as matching funds for the center, with hopes that the remaining dollars will be included in the state's 2014-15 budget.

Upon announcing the initiative, ETSU President Dr. Brian Noland added that benefactor James C. Martin would provide the lead gift of $3 million for the arts center. Martin made a $1 million gift to ETSU in 2009 to establish the Mary B. Martin School of the Arts, named in memory of his late wife, Mary B. Martin. Since then, he has provided considerable financial support, and with the lead gift for the arts initiative, his total giving to ETSU now stands at $7 million.

"Through the generosity of Mr. Martin and many others, our arts initiative is moving forward, and ETSU and our community are closer to realizing a longstanding dream of having a regional fine and performing arts center here in Johnson City," Noland said. "Within five months, over $1 million in additional money has been raised for this center. This is a tremendous accomplishment, and I thank these wonderful donors for their generosity and for their vision of how this center and our arts programs at ETSU will further enhance the cultural environment of the region."

Noland added that the arts initiative recently received a boost through two gifts – each for $50,000 – made by Dr. Bert Bach and Robert and Jane LaPella.

Bach is provost and vice president for Academic Affairs at ETSU, where he first joined the administration in 1991 as interim president. Bach has dedicated more than 35 years to working in Tennessee higher education and has been a strong supporter of arts programs at ETSU and across the region.

LaPella retired in 1997 from ETSU, where he was an associate professor of music and led the vocal division and opera programs. He was also founder, director and conductor of the Johnson City Civic Chorale, where he participated in more than 60 major concerts during a span of 20 years.

His wife, Jane LaPella, is a well-known organist and pianist across the region. She has served as organist at Munsey Memorial United Methodist Church since 1963 and has performed at numerous weddings, recitals and special programs across East Tennessee.

"The arts are thriving throughout our region thanks to people like Dr. Bert Bach and the LaPella family, and we are honored to have their support for our arts initiative," Noland said.

Through the arts initiative, ETSU has launched a "Now Seating" campaign that allows individuals and businesses to purchase seats in one of three facilities that will be located in the arts center. These include a 1,400-seat concert hall, a 500-seat theater and a 250-seat recital hall.

Seats can be purchased for $250 each and named in honor or memory of a person or in recognition of a business or organization. Those who buy three seats may name a fourth seat without charge if the gift or pledge is paid in full prior to Dec. 31.