Seven Boston Arts Organizations Receive Excellence Awards

October 25, 2006


Contact: Mary Trudel
Senior Communications Officer
The Wallace Foundation


The Boston Foundation and Massachusetts Cultural Council Partner with Wallace to Foster Local Engagement in the Arts

Boston, October 25, 2006 – In recognition of their commitment to community and audience building activities, The Wallace Foundation today announced Excellence Award grants totaling $4.6 million to seven leading Boston arts organizations. The Boston Symphony and Museum of Fine Arts will receive challenge grants of $1.1 million each and the Boston Lyric Opera Company, From the Top, Huntington Theater, The Institute of Contemporary Art and Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum will receive program grants of $368,000 to $500,000, for a total Foundation investment of $4.6 million.  The awards will be announced October 25, 2006, at The Boston Foundation by The Wallace Foundation President, Christine DeVita.

The Wallace Foundation Excellence Awards were created to support exemplary arts organizations to pioneer effective practices to engage more people in high-value arts activities. The Awards are an important part of the Foundation’s efforts to develop and share effective ideas and practices for enhancing arts participation and bringing the powerful benefits of the arts to all. 

In addition to the Excellence Awards, The Wallace Foundation is collaborating with The Boston Foundation and the Massachusetts Cultural Council to create a Learning Network for all Boston arts organizations and to foster arts engagement in Boston. The collaboration, funded by a grant to the Boston Foundation from Wallace, will inform and support the participation-building work of many arts organizations throughout the city.

This current collaboration is built on long and significant relationships between The Wallace Foundation and both The Boston Foundation and the Massachusetts Cultural Council. In particular, The Boston Foundation began its arts funding with a major grant from the Lila Wallace-Reader’s Digest Fund (which was later subsumed by The Wallace Foundation) in 1997. The Massachusetts Cultural Council participated in its START Initiative, designed to give local cultural councils and communities the tools to build lasting relationships, with a major Wallace grant in 2003.

By adding further support to local arts organizations, the collaboration will promote the effective exchange of knowledge -- extending the benefits of this work to many other organizations beyond those that receive individual awards.  The initiative will include a series of seminars/workshops and potential technical assistance on market research and evaluation of audience development efforts.

The Foundation is taking a city-based approach to its arts funding to help improve arts participation across a whole community. Wallace chose Boston as one of the first two sites for this new effort because of the city’s high concentration and variety of arts organizations and because of the congruence of these grants with Wallace’s support of Boston After School & Beyond with a multi-year grant to improve city-wide delivery of high-quality out-of-school time programming to children who need it most. Chicago is the other city chosen for Wallace Excellence Awards grants in 2006.

“The Excellence Awards honor organizations that have made a commitment to engage more people deeply in the arts part of their DNA,” said DeVita. “We created these awards to encourage organizations to sustain and expand the impact of their work with local constituencies, to draw national attention to the importance of engaging more people in the arts and to generate an assortment of useful, broadly-applicable lessons and practices that will be helpful to the field.”

“We applaud The Wallace Foundation for its sustained commitment to the cultural life of Greater Boston,” said Mary Kelley, Massachusetts Cultural Council's Executive Director. “Its earlier grants to the MCC and The Boston Foundation enhanced both organizations' ability to better serve the public. Now these new investments will result in stronger institutions capable of bringing outstanding arts and cultural experiences to more of our citizens.”

“The arts are vital to a thriving civic life, and these awards both honor that fact and strengthen the work of seven very important institutions,” said Paul S. Grogan, President and CEO of The Boston Foundation. “It is especially significant to be recognized by a national organization with the stature of The Wallace Foundation, and The Boston Foundation is delighted to join a partnership designed to get more people involved more deeply with the arts.”

Twenty innovative institutions across the United States received Excellence Award Grants from The Wallace Foundation in 2004 and 2005, among them: Arena Stage, Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, Ballet Hispanico, the Des Moines Art Center, El Museo del Barrio, Jazz at Lincoln Center, the New Jersey Performing Arts Center, Real Art Ways and the San Francisco Symphony.

The Wallace Foundation
The Wallace Foundation is an independent, New York-based national foundation dedicated to supporting and sharing effective ideas and practices that expand learning and enrichment opportunities for all people. Its three current objectives are: strengthening education leadership to improve student achievement; enhancing out-of-school learning opportunities; and building appreciation and demand for the arts. More information and research on these and other related topics can be found at The Wallace Foundation Knowledge Center at or by calling 212-251-9810. 

The Boston Foundation, Greater Boston’s community foundation, is one of the oldest and largest community foundations in the nation, with an endowment of more than $768 million.  In 2006, the Foundation and its donors made close to $64 million in grants to nonprofit organizations and received more than $73 million in gifts.  The Foundation is made up of more than 850 separate charitable funds established by donors either for the general benefit of the community or for special purposes.  The Boston Foundation also serves as a major civic leader, provider of information, convener, and sponsor of special initiatives designed to address the community’s and region’s most pressing challenges.  For more information about the Boston Foundation, visit or call 617-338-1700.

The Massachusetts Cultural Council promotes excellence, access, education and diversity in the arts, humanities and interpretive sciences, in order to improve the quality of life for all Massachusetts residents and contribute to the economic vitality of our communities.  The MCC is committed to building a central place for the arts, sciences and humanities in the everyday lives of communities across the Commonwealth. The Council pursues this mission through a combination of grant programs, partnerships, and services for nonprofit cultural organizations, schools, communities, and individual artists.  For more information visit or call 617-727-3668.

                                           The Wallace Foundation
                            Wallace Excellence Awards – Boston, MA
                                       List of Newly Named Grantees



Boston Symphony Orchestra, founded in 1881, offers performances that cover the full range of the symphonic and pops repertoire and provides educational and training programs at the highest level of excellence.  Each season, the BSO presents an average of 27 programs in nearly 100 concerts at Symphony Hall, 21 concerts in the summer months at Tanglewood, an annual concert series at Carnegie Hall and 17 Youth and Family concerts. 

The Boston Symphony Orchestra will receive a $1 million endowment to be matched one-to-one within four years and $120,000 over four years for data collection and analysis.  The BSO will enhance and expand internet-based marketing, education and recorded music distribution, including the Symphony’s successful Online Conservatory targeting children, teens, families and adults using online interactive technologies to engage audiences more deeply.

Museum of Fine Arts (MFA), founded in 1870, welcomes more than one million visitors each year from neighboring communities and countries around the globe.  As one of the world’s great encyclopedic art museums, its collections comprise more than 450,000 objects that encompass masterpieces across an array of cultures and across centuries.  The Museum has a commitment to the conservation, preservation and scholarly interpretation of its collection as well as developing a wide variety of exhibitions and educational programs throughout the year.
The Museum of Fine Arts will receive a $1 million endowment to be matched one-to-one within four years and $120,000 over four years for data collection and analysis.  The MFA will create new, hands-on interpretive tools for visitors to use in the galleries to make the experience more meaningful and encourage more frequent and rewarding visits.  This will be coupled with a communications plan to ensure that non-traditional and infrequent visitors to the museum are aware of these new opportunities.  


Boston Lyric Opera (BLO) is New England’s most popular opera company.  Founded in 1976, BLO is recognized for its artistically excellent productions of a diverse repertoire that entertain and inspire audiences and which feature emerging operatic talent.  With three mainstage productions at The Shubert Theatre, live broadcasts on WGBH radio and a traveling production of a fully staged, one-hour English version of a popular opera for schools and families, BLO reaches some 200,000 people a year. 
Boston Lyric Opera will receive $500,000 over five years to expand family programming to cultivate educate and engage future generations of opera audiences while attracting new adult participants in the near term. BLO will enhance the family performances and add programs that bridge family and adult offerings and mainstage productions.  Specifically BLO will enhance physical productions, increase family performances and previews, provide incentives to attend mainstage activities, implement a student card program, and create "behind-the-scenes" content for web and other media outlets to provide insights into the art form and the professionals who perform and produce it.
From the Top is a non-profit organization that encourages and celebrates the commitment of young people to music and the arts.  Through its unique nationally broadcast radio and  television series, web and in-school programming, From the Top provides a platform for young artists to present themselves, share their passion, and develop into important cultural leaders. From the Top’s Cultural Leaders program in Boston schools reaches approximately 3,000 students in the Boston area and about 3,000 via similar programs around the country.

From the Top will receive $368,000 over four years to showcase highly skilled young performers to share their expertise and enthusiasm for classical music with other young people during in-school programming as well as through radio, television and web media. The program targets students in Boston public elementary schools and will use an intense “peer-to-peer” strategy in partnership with three public schools. 

The Huntington Theatre Company has been Boston's leading professional theatre company for 25 years.  While maintaining its home base at the 890-seat Boston University Theatre, the Huntington has expanded its operations to include the Stanford Calderwood Pavilion at the Boston Center for the Arts, which includes the 370-seat Virginia Wimberly Theatre and the 200-seat Nancy and Edward Roberts Studio Theatre.  Since opening the new spaces the Huntington offers a seven-play subscription season and special events for its subscribers, and operates ( on behalf of the many theatre companies that use the Calderwood Pavilion, serving an overall annual audience of more than 200,000.

With a grant of $500,000 over three years from the Wallace Foundation, the Huntington will enhance with sophisticated initiatives to reach new and more diverse audiences, and deepen the artistic experience for current audiences.  It will provide major investments in's infrastructure and launch an extensive marketing component to drive traffic to  Finally, it will allow for a rigorous research component to gather patron feedback and patron data more efficiently, and use that information to meet patrons' needs more fully.  The experiences from this work targeting diverse audiences may also help inform other local and national theatre companies' strategies to expand their own audiences and the audiences of smaller, emerging theatre companies that share their facilities.

The Institute of Contemporary Art, founded in 1936, presents exhibitions, performances, and programs, inviting audiences of all ages and backgrounds to participate in the excitement of new art and new ideas.  On December 10, ICA will open a new building on Boston’s Fan Pier in the city’s revitalized waterfront area. The ICA’s longstanding commitment to providing teens with creative opportunities will expand in the new museum, taking advantage of state-of-the-art facilities including a digital media studio. One of its current programs, Fast Forward, teaches filmmaking to teens, many of whom have received recognition in Boston and elsewhere for their work.

The Institute of Contemporary Art will receive $500,000 over three years to expand programming for teens, create a regional consortium around digital media education and organize the exchange of digital art and other ideas among teens nationwide.  The ICA will specifically target teens in the South Boston, Dorchester and Roxbury neighborhoods to structure participation opportunities for increased engagement.

Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, first opened in 1903, is known for its landmark building reminiscent of a 15th century Venetian palazzo and for its highly personalized galleries, which were installed by Isabella Gardner to fire the imagination of visitors. The museum's collection contains more than 3,000 paintings, sculptures, tapestries, furniture, manuscripts, rare books and decorative arts. The spirit of the architecture, the unique character of the arrangements and the artistic display of the courtyard combine to create an atmosphere that distinguishes the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum as an intimate and culturally-rich treasure. The museum engages visitors with exhibitions and programs that draw inspiration from the permanent collection and present new ways of experiencing the museum.

The Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum will receive $500,000 over five years to enhance web-based services such as virtual access to the collection and free downloads of certain educational programs. Nurturing a new generation of talent in the arts and humanities by targeting young adults ages 18-34, the Gardner will add Friday evening hours and conduct market research to inform programming.