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ECU makes $250,000 donation to ETSU Arts Initiative

In a donation designed to jumpstart generosity throughout the region, Eastman Credit Union presented a $250,000 check to East Tennessee State University officials on Feb. 11 to help fund their ETSU Arts Initiative.
The check — which means the initiative’s planned performing arts center is one step closer to reality — brings total funding to about $6 million, just $3.5 million short of the initial goal of $9.5 million.
“I think it’s very important to the region,” said Olan Jones, ECU chief executive officer and president, who presented the check at a media event held at ECU’s Marketplace Boulevard branch in Johnson City.
“Currently, there isn’t a stage in this region that can accommodate a Broadway play or a full symphony orchestra,” Jones said. “The people of our region need to join together in a united effort to reach the $9.5 million goal as soon as possible.”
A venue for national tours, community performances and educational opportunities, the planned regional performing arts center would be available to host visual arts, music, theater, dance and storytelling events.
It would include a 1,400-seat concert hall; a 500-seat theater; and a 250-seat recital hall, as well as housing the administrative offices for the Mary B. Martin School of the Arts and gallery space.
The center would also, supporters maintain, bolster the region’s economy with job creation and new revenue streams.
“Hopefully, it will drive other businesses,” said Dr. Paul Stanton Jr., retired ETSU president and the man spearheading the fundraising efforts.
“Having a facility such as this will keep our residents exposed to the artistic side of things,” Stanton said. Students, as well as area residents, will encounter a plethora of talents and styles — “everything from bluegrass to opera,” Stanton said.
A local performing arts center can also enhance enrollment at ETSU, he added. But it still requires work to reach the goal, though Stanton is confident members of the community, like ECU, will come through.
“Many of ETSU’s projects would not be here were it not for your bleeding blue and gold,” Stanton told Jones.
The facility is estimated to cost about $38 million and includes a state matching fund requirement for the university.
ETSU has set a goal to raise $9.5 million by June 2014 in order to meet the matching fund requirement for the arts center. Though ETSU President Dr. Brian Noland acknowledged that Gov. Bill Haslam did not have the center in this year’s higher education capital budget, he is confident ETSU’s time is coming.
“Our project moves a step closer to the top,” he said.
Noland also thanked ECU for the gift, adding he is hopeful donors in the community will quickly step forward to help ETSU hit its final goal.
“The generosity of Eastman Credit Union brings us one step closer to realizing a dream that began more than a quarter-century ago of having an arts center for ETSU and the community,” Noland said.
“ECU has been a true partner and a friend to the university for many years, and we thank them for stepping forward with this significant gift that will benefit both ETSU and this region.”