Nexus Point: Another Gift to Help Redefine The On-Campus Arts Experience

We readily admit that pulling out the old venn diagram as a framing device is an overused journalistic parlor trick. But we're going to do it anyway. (And, in our defense, the last time we whipped it out was back in January. We're overdue.)

For our present purposes, a $5 million pledge from Chancellor Emeritus Alex Ewing, which will serve as the lead gift in a comprehensive fundraising campaign by the University of North Carolina School of the Arts (UNCSA), dwells in a common area of two overlapping and timely trends in the higher education space.

The first? A noticeable uptick in donors cutting checks to create vibrant on-campus art centers—a kind of mini-Bilbao Effect to attract visitors and artists. The second? The idea of donors embracing a single structure that houses various departments, units, and offices under one roof to simplify management and optimize the student experience. (We've seen this trend accelerating in the area of diversity and inclusion across campuses nationwide.)

And so the to-be-renamed Alex Ewing Performance Place will contain three theaters and will also serve as the primary training facility for the schools of Drama and Design & Production. Not to be outdone, the space will also host performances by the School of Music, including the Jazz Ensemble and opera productions.

Adhering to the idea that funding leads to more funding, Chief Advancement Officer Edward J. Lewis hopes Ewing's gift compels additional donors to give. "Happily, during this quiet phase, we have the opportunity to build on the momentum of this generous gift, and other recent fundraising success, to ensure a successful comprehensive fundraising campaign," he said.

And for what it's worth, philanthropic role models don't get much better than Alex Ewing.

Back in April, he pledged a $1 million gift to be earmarked towards scholarships beginning this fall. What's more, during his stint as chancellor from 1990 to 2000, Ewing founded the School of Filmmaking and, for good measure, established the Lucia Chase Endowed Fellowship in Dance, named for his mother who was a principal dancer and longtime artistic director with American Ballet Theatre.

Needless to say, we couldn't be surprised if Ewing also oversaw the landscaping of UNCSA's impeccably manicured quad and designed the costume for the school's mascot, the Fighting Pickle.

Add it all up and it's another impressive gift to transform an on-campus arts center into a cultural nexus point for both students and the community as a whole.

In related news, check out our take on a generous gift by the Denver-based Boettcher Foundation to support the construction of a new arts center at UC Colorado Springs and a $10 million gift from the Ed Rachal Foundation to Texas A&M to support the music department with the opening of a new Music Activities Center.