LexArts kicked off its 2009 Campaign for the Arts on Tuesday with a modified goal — $1 million — because of the ailing economy.
Last year, the capital campaign took in $1,153,522, exceeding the goal of $1,125,000. Usually, that kind of success prompts the arts umbrella organization such as LexArts to ramp up its expectations the next year.
"We set the goal in the midst of a lot of the bad economic news breaking," LexArts president and CEO Jim Clark said a few hours before Tuesday night's kick-off party at Spindletop Hall. "We were not going to be limited by national conditions, but we did think it was realistic to set our goal a little lower."
Despite the challenges of raising money in uncertain financial times, campaign organizers said supporting the arts is still important, particularly with the Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games coming in 2010.
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"The arts are important to our quality of life," said campaign chairman Larry Bell, general manager of the Hyatt Regency Hotel.
From his office, Bell said he can see the effect of the arts on the economy all the time, including this week and next week, as the touring production of Mamma Mia! is working on technical rehearsals in the Lexington Opera House before next weekend's performances.
"They're staying in our hotel for two weeks, eating at restaurants around here and generally contributing to the local economy," Bell said.
Funds raised by the campaign go to support local arts groups both through allocations to major area arts organizations and grants to groups and individual artists.
Clark said that, with the games coming up, "funds are particularly important for groups that are putting together special exhibits and performances for the games. It's hard to plan when you're struggling to get by."
Since the economy went south, Clark said, he and his staff have had to work harder to make sure people are fulfilling their pledges to the 2008 campaign, but those contributions are still coming in.
The campaign is starting with $300,000 already raised, a little bit less than the fund-raiser normally has when it is launched. LexArts also will have to wait until April to see what kind of contribution it will get from the Lexington-Fayette Urban County Government, which has kicked in $350,000, plus $150,000 in challenge grants the last couple of years.