MORGAN PARK — The Beverly Arts Center's fundraising blitz has landed another big donor.
The MacArthur Fund for Arts and Culture at Prince has awarded the arts center a two-year, $80,000 grant for general operating support, said Nancy Abbate, interim executive director of the arts center.
The first $40,000 was presented to the center last month, she said.
"They believe in what we are doing here," she said.
The grant is to be used for programming operations at the arts center, 2407 W. 111th St. It's separate from a big fundraising push to pay down $4.7 million in mortgage debt.
The BAC Challenge was launched in September as part of a $250,000 city bailout of the financially struggling arts center. The mortgage terms with Fifth Third Bank were renegotiated as part of the deal.
The Cincinnati-based bank reduced the loan amount for the 40,000-square-foot arts center to $1.75 million. A second loan of $2.5 million was also written, but the bank agreed to forgive $2 million of the debt if supporters of the performing arts building at 111th Street and Western Avenue managed to raise $500,000 in one year.
Abbate said the latest totals for BAC Challenge is $350,000. Board members believe they will surpass the original goal and use any additional funds to further pay down the mortgage.
This could lead them to find a new lender, and Fifth Third has said it will reduce the loan by another $200,000 if it can completely remove the Beverly Arts Center from its portfolio.
Thus far, the goal seems within grasp. Neighborhood businesses and local residents have taken up the cause to save the arts center. On Dec. 4, KFC donated 15 percent of its sales to the arts center. Kean Gas Station has agreed to donate 5 cents from every gallon of gasoline sold in December to the BAC Challenge. And then there's the individual donations.
"It's heartwarming at times to open envelopes and see $10 and $25 checks with little notes saying, 'Please, don't close my arts center,'" Abbate said.
The MacArthur Foundation took notice of this grass-roots effort. The grant-making organization withheld its financial support of the center in 2012, as questions swirled about leadership and financial stability.
The group had previously funded the arts center with two separate grants of $25,000 and $37,000 in 2011, according to records posted online.
This year, the MacArthur Foundation restored its support, issuing the arts center a grant that was larger than even requested, Abbate said.
"They did see that we are a viable organization," she said.