Families commit $225K to arts center

Published 12:03 am Saturday, August 6, 2011

Attorney Rick Clifton presents a $100,000 check from the Estep Foundation to Andalusia Ballet Association Board president Kathy McMillan and artistic director Meryane Martin Murphy. Michele Gerlach/Star-News

The Andalusia Ballet Association this week received gifts of $140,000 and pledges of an additional $85,000 for its renovation of Church Street School.

The surprise announcement drew audible gasps from the audience at the ABA’s “Summer Dancers.”

The Dr. John H. and Mrs. Grace McMillan Estep Foundation presented the ABA with $100,000 and pledged an additional $50,000. Attorney Rick Clifton made the presentation on behalf of the foundation.

Dr. Estep practiced medicine in Andalusia until his retirement in 1980. Mrs. Estep was a dancer in her youth and a patron of the arts. The premiere studio in the ballet’s new home will be named for the Esteps.

The Andalusia Ballet Association also received a $40,000 gift and a commitment for an additional $35,000 from the ADC Foundation, Inc. The young dancers’ studio in the Church Street Cultural Arts Centre will be named in memory of Frances and F.M. Jones, whose children attended Church Street School.

The ADC Foundation invests in the community through support of the historic preservation of Andalusia, the arts, and the youth of Covington County and surrounding areas.

The Andalusia Ballet Association partnered with the City of Andalusia for the renovation of the historic school as the Church Street Cultural Arts Centre. With these gifts, the ABA is $125,000 away from its fundraising goal for the facility, and expects to begin fall classes there on Sept. 12.

“This is only the beginning of a dream come true,” said Meryane Martin Murphy, artistic director and founder of the Andalusia Ballet. “I am excited about all the opportunities in education, training, and outreach that the Church Street Cultural Arts Centre will bring for the ballet and the arts in our community.”

Andalusia Ballet Association board chairman Kathy McMillan said, “Andalusia Ballet is proud to have been able to partner with the City of Andalusia in this historical renovation project. We are grateful for the support and leadership of our city government with this project.

“We are also grateful to the many citizens of our area who have donated to the Church Street School Renovation Project,” she said.

McMillan said with the increased space now available to the organization comes a bigger responsibility to offer the opportunities to the community.

“Last year, we had 130 students and couldn’t have taken any more,” she said. “This year, we have much more opportunity.”

She especially thanked those who have contributed funds for studios in the new arts center.

“We are especially honored to have received substantial donations in the naming of our studios – The Dr. John H. and Grace McMillan Estep Premiere Studio donated by the Estep Foundation, the F. M. and Frances Jones Young Dancer’s Studio by the A D C Foundation, Inc., and the Ray and Win Murphy Children’s Studio by Mike and Susan Murphy, Arthur and Pat Carlton, and Mark and Meryane Murphy.”

There is one naming opportunity remaining for studios, she said.

The total renovation of the facility will not be completed when the ballet moves in next month. At present, work continues on the exterior of the building and the installation of the courtyard constructed of engraved bricks.