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Auer Foundation donates $1 million to help Fort Wayne Ballet start endowment

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Endowment drive

What: The Fort Wayne Ballet is raising money to create an endowment needed to help the organization reach education, growth and performance goals.
To donate, call 484-9646 or email

Open to other organizations

The Edward D. and Ione Auer Foundation is accepting concept letters from local organizations seeking grants. Foundation assets will be donated with the goal of benefiting the Fort Wayne community in the areas of music, arts, education, parks and other charitable purposes, a news release said.
For more information about the Auer Foundation, go to

Monday, September 23, 2013 - 5:06 pm

The Fort Wayne Ballet’s endowment fund drive committee is going back to the drawing board this week.

The committee and ballet had set a goal of raising $1 million to create an endowment to help the keep the ballet operating in perpetuity, said Karen Gibbons-Brown, the organization’s artistic/executive director.

Saturday, the ballet announced the local Edward D. and Ione Auer Foundation had given it a grant of $1 million for the endowment, and requested the endowment be named after Gibbons-Brown.

“It is such a lovely gift, and such a lovely gesture,” Gibbons-Brown said.

“The ballet is a wonderful local organization, and we also wanted to honor Karen,” said Katherine Moenter, Auer Foundation grants director.

Ione Auer also had a “deep appreciation” for the arts and believed strongly in the value of endowments, Moenter added. In keeping with that, the Auer Foundation has worked over about the past five years to create endowments for four other organizations — Fort Wayne Philharmonic, Fort Wayne Children’s Zoo, IPFW scholarships and the Allen County Public Library.

The 2013-14 season will be Gibbons-Brown’s 16th with the ballet. During her leadership, the ballet’s academy has increased to more than 400 students from 87 students when she arrived, the ballet said.

The ballet had applied to the Auer Foundation for a grant of $1 million to be the lead gift in creating an endowment, Gibbons-Brown said. The foundation staff also invited ballet representatives to make a presentation to the grant committee.

The application came during the silent portion of the ballet’s endowment fund drive, she said.

It was “quite a bit surprising,” Gibbons-Brown said, when the ballet learned recently the Auer Foundation would donate the entire $1 million.

The ballet still will need to manage its budget, which has stayed in positive numbers for the past several years, as well as to raise money for its normal operations, Gibbons-Brown said.

The $1 million will be invested and left untouched, but the earned income on the principal amount will provide money to help the ballet achieve four strategic goals:

•Supplement ballet academy operating funds, making it possible to provide scholarships to dance students who need them as well as to offer staff and other educational programs.

•Stage 20th century ballets, most of which are protected by trust funds that charge a fee for permission to perform the works.

•Hire more dancers for its professional dance corps, which will allow the ballet to present works that require more professional performers on stage. Currently, the ballet’s paid dancers include eight professionals, three apprentices and three trainees.

•Update, replace or create better sets, backdrops and costumes for dance performances, especially for ballets the local group has not performed previously.

Gibbons-Brown said the ballet hopes to continue raising money to build its endowment. The endowment committee now will re-evaluate where to set the fundraising goal.