Growing up in the Bronx, N.Y., Howard Feinsand was enamored by the theatre the moment he saw Julie Andrews and Rex Harrison in the original 1956 production of “My Fair Lady” on Broadway as an 8-year-old.
His parents, Abraham and Annette Feinsand, produced the musical.
“I fell in love with the theatre and ultimately other forms of the performing and visual arts,” he said. “I was on the board of a nonprofit theatre [The Women’s Project and Productions in Manhattan] before I moved down here and was on the board of the Harlem School of the Arts.”
Feinsand, a Midtown resident who with his wife Ellen relocated to Atlanta in 1999, is now the treasurer and chair of the finance committee at the Woodruff Arts Center in Midtown and a longtime volunteer. The center, which is wrapping up its annual corporate fundraising campaign while continually seeking donations from individuals, is hoping more Atlantans will discover and appreciate the arts the same way Feinsand did.
The Woodruff houses the Alliance Theatre, the High Museum of Art, the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra and Young Audiences, a nonprofit dedicated to educating children through the arts. So far, despite the down economy, the center’s $9.2 million corporate campaign, up from $9 million last year, is well on track.
Set to end May 31, when the center’s fiscal year concludes, it had raised $7.2 million as of last week, center President and CEO Virginia Hepner said. The center gets another $21 million to $26 million from individual donations.
The Woodruff has an annual operating budget of $102 million, with 40 to 50 percent raised through contributed sources, depending on the divisions, Director of Development Kristin Hathaway-Hansen wrote in an email. The rest of the funding comes through ticket sales, endowment income, tuitions for classes and memberships, Hepner said.
“I’m delighted how it’s gone,” she said of the corporate campaign. “It could be a record number of volunteers. We have almost 150 volunteers. We have a lot of great volunteer leadership. Our donors have been quite generous. It’s a stretch.”
Center Campaign Director Tommy Hills, who like Hepner was an unpaid Woodruff volunteer before taking on a salaried position there in recent years, said he’s been “so impressed” with the community’s generosity through a poor economy.
“It’s slightly improving,” he said, “but the contributors have been staying at the same level they’ve been at. Not that many have increased, but there’s been some new donors. You have a lot of variations in what happens. I think people and individuals are continuing to give there and are being cautious in increasing their giving.”
Feinsand, a lawyer, recently retired after a long career with Duke Realty, where he rose to executive vice president and general counsel. He now has his own consulting business, Feinsand Business Advisory, but said he spends about 25 hours a week volunteering for the center.
“I think there are several things the arts drives, especially here at the Woodruff Arts Center,” Feinsand said. “First, it’s a significant economic engine, all for the different art forms in Atlanta. There are probably 60,000 jobs. No. 2, it’s been proven in many studies that arts education has enhanced children’s abilities to learn.
“There’s a synergy between the ability to learn and the arts. … Finally, the art form themselves, there’s nothing more thrilling than to see [a play at] the Alliance, a concert at the symphony or a wonderful opera [which performs at the Cobb Energy Performing Arts Centre], or the wonderful exhibits at the High Museum like ‘Frida and Diego.’”
Feinsand plans to be in the middle of it all for the foreseeable future. In 2001, shortly after Alliance Artistic Director Susan Booth arrived at the center, she found a passionate arts ally in Feinsand.
“Howard immediately put his hand up and asked how he could help,” she wrote in an email. “Because Howard does nothing in short measure, his definition of help quickly expanded from loyal attendee to deeply generous supporter to avidly informed board member to stand-right-next-to-you-to-help-you-achieve-your-goals board chair.”
Information: visit www.woodruffcenter.org.