Boston's Celebrity Series Loses Bank of America Sponsorship

Classic Arts News   Boston's Celebrity Series Loses Bank of America Sponsorship
Bank of America has withdrawn as chief sponsor of Boston's Celebrity Series, reports The Boston Globe.

The Celebrity Series, which organizes around 50 classical music and dance performances a year in Symphony Hall, Jordan Hall and other Boston venues, will thus lose about $600,000 of its $7 million annual operating budget, according to the paper.

Since 1989, a series of local banks, culminating in Fleet Bank, had been chief sponsors of the series; when Charlotte-based Bank of America bought Fleet in 2004, it decided to continue the sponsorship.

Since then, the Celebrity Series has brought to Boston starry musicians and groups including Pavarotti, the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, Yo-Yo Ma , and most recently, the Kirov Ballet. According to the Globe, the organization has already confirmed that it will not be able to bring the Kirov to Boston in future as a result of the loss of sponsorship.

Robert E. Gallery, Massachusetts president for Bank of America, which announced its decision last week, told the paper that the bank is shifting its priorities; it will, however, give the Celebrity Series $100,000 next year to lessen the impact of the loss of its sponsorship. Bank of America has also given prominently to other local arts institutions.

"It is a blow, and we have to tighten our belts," said Martha H. Jones, president and executive director of the Celebrity Series, who told the Globe she was aware since last summer that the bank was likely to pull out. The Celebrity Series will have to reduce its budget for 2007-2008 and draw down a portion of its $500,000 reserve fund.

However, Jones praised Bank of America for remaining with the Celebrity Series after buying Fleet. "We talked to them all along about when we would be able to stand on our own two feet," she told the Globe. "It's very hard for a stand-alone presenter to raise [money], because we don't have a building you can splash your name on. But we've educated all of our donors and our subscribers to this [endowment] campaign. If we are successful, we will replace the majority of what the bank's ending."

Finding a new sponsor might be tough for the Celebrity Series, according to Larry Moulter, former chairman of the FleetCenter, now the TD Banknorth Garden, as donors like bricks and mortar to attach their names to. Last month, for example, the New York-based Citigroup purchased the naming rights to the Wang Center for the Performing Arts for $34 million. The facility is now called the Citi Performing Arts Center.

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