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Still in the hunt for $1.3 million

It will take $200,000 a month to do it, but fundraisers are confident that they can bring an arts center to Woodbury.

Arts Connection, a non-profit dedicated to raising the profile of the arts in Woodbury, is spearheading the drive to raise $1.3 million by Dec. 1 to pay for construction of a center for the arts at the new East Ridge High School.

The center, which would contain a community theater center, black box theater for small performances and rehearsals, art gallery and studio, would be an add-on to the East Ridge main theater and auditorium.

Funding has not come in as quickly as hoped, however, so campaigners have been forced to push back their deadline to raise the money from an original date of March to December.

In addition, the organization Fine Artists Metro East (FAME) voted not to participate in fundraising for the venue at its March 6 meeting at Woodbury City Hall.

"FAME feels like it does not have the resources to actively participate in the fundraising for the Arts Connection," explained treasurer Kathy Hennen.

"We do appreciate being part of that group and feel that we have a lot to offer them, and that they have a lot to offer us."

Undeterred, the Arts Connection, which started fundraising in September and has gathered $50,000 in pledges to date, is turning up the heat.

"This is a terrific opportunity to do this, and to do it cost-effectively, and we really want people to step up," said Michelle Witte, who is the fundraising chairperson for the center for the arts.

"We have a lot of sports already in Woodbury and it's just time to give the arts a home."

If the Dec. 1 deadline should be missed, there will be an opportunity to push the deadline back further, and add the extra buildings on to East Ridge in summer 2010.

That, however, would involve additional cost, as it would require bringing back the construction workers, rather than utilizing staff and materials already on site.

The total cost of the project is $2 million, with $1.3 million needing to be raised to get construction underway.

That compares to the $10 million estimated cost of a standalone arts center, which was floated as an idea in Woodbury 10 years ago.

Next week sees the launch of the Arts Connection's online donation drive, which will work alongside the organization's "Take Your Seat" program, which encourages donors to pay $1,500 to have a named seat plaque in the main theater for three years.

Fundraisers are also seeking corporate funding in the shape of naming the various parts of the center for anywhere between $50,000 and $400,000.

To find out more or to donate to the center for the arts, log on to