Center Stage nears fund-raising goal; Arts: The theater is only $1 million away from its aim of $12 million.


Seeking to renovate its theater building and to endow artistic and public outreach programs, Center Stage will today officially announce its campaign to raise $12 million. The bigger news, however, is that the theater is only $1 million short of its goal.

During the past two years, Center Stage has received $11 million for the Century Campaign from corporations, foundations, wealthy supporters and government grants.

Now, if it can raise $400,000 from everyone else by next summer, the Kresge Foundation will kick in the last $600,000. Created in 1924 by Kmart founder Sebastian Kresge, the Michigan foundation focuses on strengthening charitable organizations involved in education and the arts.

More than a third of the funds from this campaign will endow such programs as the Off Center theater festival and the commissioning of new plays. Roughly another third will support capital projects and the building's endowment. "Theater for a New Generation," a program to build young, diverse audiences through such incentives as lower-priced tickets, will receive $3 million.

According to theater spokesperson Linda Geeson, Center Stage waited to announce the campaign because the Kresge Foundation challenge did not become active until the theater was within $1 million of its goal.

That phase began when city voters recently approved $500,000 toward replacing seats, refurbishing the lobby, increasing the number of women's restrooms and making more areas of the building accessible to people with disabilities.

Now the foundation's pledge requires the theater to collect money from many small donors rather than a few wealthy ones.

"The Kresge Foundation wants to see institutions building relationships in the community," Geeson says. "They want to see that you're not just relying on a couple of deep pockets but that you are getting grass-roots support with gifts such as $25 and $50."

Ten years ago, the theater raised $10 million from 153 people. Center Stage hopes nearly 3,000 people will contribute to this fund-raising campaign by the time the Kresge challenge expires June 30.

The theater will use direct mail and telephone solicitation to raise money. Individuals can check the progress of the campaign or make a donation by visiting the theater's Web site:

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