NEW LONDON—The inaugural theater performance Thursday night in the New London-Spicer School District’s Performing Arts Center concluded with a standing ovation for the cast and crew of “The Wizard of Oz”—and news that a new arts endowment fund was being launched to help student arts programming well into the future.
The fund is getting a big boost with a gift of up to $100,000 from the Pierce Family Foundation.
Depending on the community response between now and May, the NLS Community Endowment for the Arts could have a perpetual fund of $200,000.
The endowment is a collaboration between the NLS Education Foundation and the Pierce Family Foundation, which is offering a dollar-for-dollar match of up to $100,000 to help fund arts programs for all students, pre-kindergarten through 12th grade.
Standing on the stage and fighting back tears while introducing the Community Endowment for the Arts, NLS Board Chairman Robert Moller said the program is “made possible because of the generosity” of the Pierce Family Foundation.
Three members of the family, Harvey and Delores Pierce and Jeff Pierce, were at the performance Thursday and talked about the importance of investing in arts programs for students.
“We feel that the arts are, maybe, a little bit undervalued compared to sports and some of the other aspects of school life,” said Jeff Pierce. “And I was one of these kids,” he said, pointing to the stage where students in costumes still lingered. “So for me, this is a little special.”
“And we were the parents of kids like those on the stage,” said Harvey Pierce.
Harvey Pierce said the family is very impressed with the new Performing Arts Center in New London—which was completed this spring—and called it the “greatest” high school theater in the state.
“There’s no finer gift to give these children than this, and to make sure there’s money for the arts programs,” he said.
Harvey and Delores Pierce, who grew up in Willmar and have a home on Green Lake, said the Pierce Family Foundation decided they wanted to be part of the community by investing in student arts programming in NLS.
The family said it made sense to launch the endowment, and their $100,000 match, with the opening night of the musical.
“We’re well on our way but now we need the community to come in, and partner up,” said Jeff Pierce. “It”ll be a great investment.”
NLS Superintendent Paul Carlson said building contractors and several large community donors have already pledged $30,000 that will go toward the $100,000 goal.
“We now need you, the community, to help raise dollars to reach or exceed our goal of $100,000 match by the end of May,” Carlson said.
“This arts endowment will support art initiatives in our schools for generations to come,” Carlson said.
Donations can be made online through the school’s website or by mailing checks to the NLS Education Foundation, PO Box 58, New London, MN 56273.
Additional performances of the Wizard of Oz will be at 7 p.m. Saturday and 2 p.m. Sunday.
West Central Tribune by Carolyn Lange