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Local company and philanthropists give Gallo Center a much needed financial boost
The Gallo Center for the Arts has been operating with a deficit since its opening in September 2007. - photo by Journal file photo
Two major contributors to the Gallo Center for the Arts have made a large donation to the performing arts center and a challenge to the community.
E & J Gallo Winery made a $1 million donation through a challenge grant and the family of June and John Rogers joined in the effort with a personal contribution of $500,000.
Half of the donation will be made this season, with the rest to be doled out once matching funds have been raised by the community. New gifts from private, corporate and foundation donors are counted as a match, as are increased contributions from existing donors and business sponsorships.
“The Center has become such a valuable resource for the community and we want to do our part to support this world class performance facility,” Joseph E. Gallo, chief executive officer of E. & J. Gallo Winery said in a prepared statement.
Despite regularly drawing crowds for the variety of concerts and shows, the Gallo Center for the Arts has been operating with a deficit since its opening in 2007. Stanislaus County owns the center and contributed $15 million to the construction costs. Lynn Dickerson, the center’s chief executive officer, said the organization is taking the necessary steps to address its previously reported $2 million budget deficit through better expense controls, increased operational efficiencies, and more profitable programming.
“The grants benefit the center in several ways,” Dickerson stated in a press release. “First, during these difficult economic times, they help offset the dramatic decline in interest earnings from the center’s original $15 million endowment fund. The anticipated income from that gift was intended to bridge financial shortfalls, so the generosity of the winery and the Rogers will enable us to continue to help cover the deficit and pay down the center’s debt.”
The timing of the grant also is an added benefit Dickerson said, because it comes at a time when some are considering end-of-year donations.
In other news, the center has also recently brought on retired Modesto Junior College Professor and Dean Jim Johnson to fill the volunteer position of Arts Education Coordinator.
Johnson will help guide the Center’s selection of programming for children and work with school districts from Stanislaus, Merced and neighboring counties to facilitate student participation. He succeeds the center’s community engagement manager, Raul Garcia, whose recently expanded duties prompted the organization to seek out Johnson.
He holds a Ph.D. from the University of Southern California and taught at Modesto Junior College for more than 40 years. From 1997 to 2005, he served as the dean of the arts division at the college, and in 2006-2007 he also served as interim vice president of instruction.
Johnson has won numerous awards during his career, including the 2008 Stanislaus County Arts Council Lifetime Achievement in the Arts. In addition to his academic achievements, he frequently acts in and directs local stage productions. He has appeared in plays such as “Molly Sweeney” at Prospect Theatre, and in “You Can’t Take it With You” at California State University, Stanislaus, and he is scheduled to direct “Dead Man’s Cell Phone” at Prospect next July.
“I’m delighted to join the creative team at the Gallo Center,” Johnson said. “I look forward to building on the excellent work of Raul Garcia in community outreach.”
Through the center’s arts education program, Pathways to Creativity, to date an estimated 50,000 area school children have attended $5 matinee performances as part of an initiative that promotes creative learning through cultural diversity and intellectual excellence.
To contact Sabra Stafford, e-mail or call 634-9141 ext. 2002.