NEWPORT NEWS, Va. (AP) — When Colonial Williamsburg cut funding for the Virginia Symphony’s July Fourth outdoor concert this year, symphony supporters began looking for other ways to raise the more than $50,000 needed.
They approached the Williamsburg City Council, which indicated it would kick in about $23,000 to pay for the orchestra. And they launched an online Kickstarter campaign to raise another $31,000 to pay for the staging, audio set-up and large video screen.
But this year’s efforts weren’t successful, said Bert Aaron, a Williamsburg-area resident who sits on the Virginia Symphony board.
“The symphony had a deadline, and we had 20 days to raise the money,” said Aaron, who launched the campaign with Adam Steely, an owner of the Blue Talon Bistro. “We just couldn’t do it.”
The popular concert, held for the past three years on the Palace Green, attracted an estimated 35,000 people, he said. Combined with the fireworks, it was an irresistible draw for a lot of people.
“I thought it was magical,” said Amber Kennedy, director of marketing and community engagement at the Peninsula Fine Arts Center in Newport News. She attended with her husband and friends for the past two years. “Hearing the patriotic songs with the symphony under the stars at Colonial Williamsburg was really wonderful.”
The canceled concert was part of more than $100,000 in cuts Colonial Williamsburg made this spring to programs presented by the symphony and Virginia Arts Festival. Most of the rest of the funds went toward an annual contribution to support the arts festival.
Since 2008, the foundation had been supporting the arts festival, which comes to Williamsburg over the long Memorial Day weekend for concerts in the Williamsburg Lodge and other locales. These concerts took place this year without the CW contribution. The foundation also was a sponsor of the symphony’s Williamsburg music series in Phi Beta Kappa Memorial Hall and Crosswalk Community Church.
Mark Duncan, the foundation’s director of community, college and government relations, said the cuts were painful but necessary in order to trim the budget.
“We’ve had to make some tough decisions,” he said. “None of this has been fun, pleasant or easy.”
Duncan said the foundation uses several criteria in determining which programs should be cut, including whether it supports Colonial Williamsburg’s core educational mission, whether it benefits guests and employees, and whether it generates any return on the investment.
Despite the loss of funds, Symphony President and CEO Karen Philion said in an email, “We hope that we can put together the partners to continue this tradition in 2016.
“The Virginia Symphony has loved celebrating Independence Day, the birth of our nation, at Colonial Williamsburg,” Philion wrote. “A special thank you to Colonial Williamsburg and everyone else who came together to try to make it work this year, especially Mayor (Clyde) Haulman and the City, the Chamber, and our local supporters including Bert Aaron and Adam Steely.”
Arts Festival Director Robert Cross also wrote in an email, “We have worked in partnership with Colonial Williamsburg, the City of Williamsburg and James City County for many years and appreciate their support and participation.
“The amount of support has varied from year to year according the programming and scope of VAF projects for Festival Williamsburg,” wrote Cross. “Virginia Arts Festival looks forward to future Festival Williamsburg performances and we are already planning for the 20th season in 2016.”
Duncan was optimistic as well, saying “We’re already talking to the Virginia Arts Festival about ways we can partner in the future.”
Information from: Daily Press, http://www.dailypress.com/
Copyright 2015 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.