Edmonds was abuzz Thursday following the announcement that Edmonds-based travel writer and public broadcasting host Rick Steves will donate $1 million to Edmonds Center for the Arts. According to a press release issued by Steves, the funds will support and expand the Center’s performances and community programs. A portion of the gift will also support Edmonds’ Cascade Symphony Orchestra by underwriting all of their facility costs for the next 10 years.
Steves and his family have long been involved in the art life of this community. During Steves’ childhood, his father’s piano store on Main Street supplied the Cascade Symphony Orchestra with fine German concert grand pianos. In fact, Steves taught piano lessons in his father’s store to fund his early European travels, and he held his first travel classes in his piano teaching studio.
“This donation is my way of helping to empower the fine people who’ve been working for years for the good of Edmonds’ art and culture – especially now, as what I consider a false austerity is being forced on the finer points of our culture.”
Steves said he wants this donation to be a challenge to others in the area. “I see it as a civic duty for businessmen like me, who’ve directly benefited from our vibrant communities, to do our fair share. Over the last decade, my tax burden has decreased even as public funding for important local programs and institutions has been decimated – a trend I find alarming. It’s my hope to inspire other caring high income people to step up and fill those funding gaps with private donations, to support causes that should be borne collectively by a community – arts centers, parks, schools, libraries, local symphonies, and to speak out on the wisdom of rolling back the tax cuts for our wealthy.
“If you’re fortunate enough to be doing well these days, figure out what recent tax cuts have saved you, then donate that amount to a deserving cause that you believe in. With my tax cut, I’m paying our orchestra’s rent. Imagine what, together, our community could do.”
“ECA is appreciative of Rick’s recognition of our efforts and those of our artistic partner Cascade Symphony Orchestra to be a cultural resource for Edmonds and for the Puget Sound region,” ECA executive director Joe McIalwain said. “This gift will enable us to focus on expanding our artistic vision and programming opportunities to continue to serve our patrons, locally and regionally.”
ECA Marketing Manager Beth Braun noted in an email to My Edmonds News Thursday night that Steves’ donation “is not directed to ease capital debt, in that some of it will support the operations of Cascade Symphony Orchestra at our facility. Since that is the first priority, ECA does not have a plan for any unallocated money not utilized for those expenses,” Braun added. While the five-year-old ECA has been in positive financial shape on the operations side, with revenue from ticket sales and fundraising increasing, it has had difficulty meeting its bond payments due to the financial downturn, which has reduced tax revenues that would have assisted with those capital obligations.
The ECA will continue to raise money, including the Arts Crush fundraiser on Sept. 24, as planned, Braun said. “While we appreciate Rick’s generosity and his gift provides a tremendous boost to our artistic efforts, ECA will continue with our usual fundraising events and plans to meet our budgetary necessities,” she said.
To celebrate the donation, Steves is performing “Rick Steves’ Europe: A Symphonic Journey” with the Cascade Symphony Orchestra Oct. 23and 24at the ECA. This concert, to be filmed for a national public TV special, will feature rousing popular favorites from Europe’s greatest composers—including Grieg, Smetana, Strauss, Berlioz, Elgar, Wagner, and Verdi—all introduced by Steves and illustrated with video clips from his public television archive. At each performance, an audience member will be selected at random to receive a Rick Steves seven-day European city tour for two of his/her choice. To learn more and purchase tickets, visit www.ricksteves.com/symphony.
See earlier story here.