You could call it a Christmas Miracle, but reality is, the dedicated supporters of the Krasl Art Center in St. Joseph simply put the power of their love behind their center and most notably behind their Executive Director who provided the vision to dramatically reimagine and renovate the center’s grounds and wrapped up several years of fundraising in grand style to complete the project in full. And, they did it just in time to put a Christmas bow on it all.
The concept of Sculpting Community ultimately has led the Krasl Art Center (KAC) to not only reimagine and renovate the grounds, it has rejuvenated the entire spirit of the center and brought the community together in great ways.
Through that placemaking initiative, the Krasl transformed the green space into a destination where everyone knows they are welcome and can enjoy the arts in a way that feels comfortable to them.
Construction for the $1.8M project was completed in the fall of 2018 with final adjustments made in the spring of 2019. The summer of 2019 welcomed an unprecedented increase in the volume of visitors to the center, as patrons enjoyed the newly redeveloped outdoor space including the interactive sculpture in the East Garden in Memory of Maria G. “Lupe” Hopp; Rising Crossing Tides, a monumental sculpture by artist Richard Hunt; a shaded plaza with casual outdoor seating; and an engaging greenspace.
The Krasl entered 2019 with three successful years of fundraising behind them, thanks in large part to matching gift grants from the 1st Source Bank Foundation and the Frederick S. Upton Foundation, plus donations from more than 400 individual donors throughout the community. However, the goal to fully fund the project faced a gap in excess of $200,000 at the start of the year. In the spring of 2019, an anonymous donor made a pledge to match each dollar given until the campaign goal was achieved. This fall, inspired by that anonymous donor’s challenge, Steve Wessell, retired Executive Vice President of 1st Source Bank and former treasurer of the Krasl Board, issued a challenge of his own.
Wessell challenged the KAC board, staff, volunteers and community partners to make individual final gifts to the campaign in honor of Executive Director, Julia Gourley Donohue. Those gifts would also serve to fully-fund all Sculpting Community expenses.
Wessell says, “Julia understood the importance of this project from the start,” and adds, “She brought the project to life for the board members, the staff and too many community members to count. She understood the hard work, outreach and funding this project would take – but – she also could see the big picture – she could see the families having lunch in the shaded plaza, groups of friends having coffee around the fire feature and kids everywhere – playing with Big Blue Blocks in the plaza, engaging the sculptures in Lupe Hopp’s Garden. She got it – and she got us to get it too.”
Wessell continues, “From my position as Board Treasurer and a member of the Fund Development committee, no one has done more to define and communicate this vision and the need than KAC Executive Director, Julia Gourley Donohue.”
Once Wessell’s challenge to the board, staff and community was reached, Wessell made a personal gift to bridge the final gap and the anonymous match was leveraged. That challenge successfully completed the capital campaign with a grand total of $1,889,037.00 in gifts and pledges. As a result, any additional gifts received will be used for free community programming planned for Krasl Art Center’s outdoor space.
Julia Gourley Donohue and her leadership will be recognized permanently on the new grounds. Her sign will join the other honorary signs recognizing donors and patrons who support the work of the Krasl Art Center. Those include the Sculpture Garden Underwritten by 1st Source Bank, East Garden in memory of Maria G. “Lupe” Hopp, Upper Patio in honor of Judith A. & James P. DeLapa, and Bench in gratitude to the Frederick S. Upton Foundation.
On December 30, 2019 Julia celebrates 14 years at Krasl Art Center; she has served as Executive Director since 2011. What a great legacy she has already put in place, yet she seemingly has only just begun.
The photo accompanying this story on Moody on the Market is courtesy of the Krasl Art Center.