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Saturday, June 15, 2024

Mondavi Center receives largest grant in 10-year history

On Aug. 1, the Robert and Margrit Mondavi Center for the Performing Arts officially announced that the program has been awarded a three-year $580,000 grant from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. In the 10-year history of the Mondavi Center, the award marks the largest single foundation grant awarded to the project since construction.

The grant proposal has been in the process of planning and revision since last September in a two-day meeting in New York, where the Mellon Foundation is based. The proposal was approved just early this June.

With the support of new funding, the Mondavi Center hopes to further support the investment of student and artist involvement through initiatives and specific programming.

“The [Andrew W.] Mellon Foundation expects a fairly detailed budget,” said Don Roth, executive director of the Mondavi Center, “But some parts are more set than others. Plans on how the money will go to our studio classics performances and our artists’ residencies are much more developed. However, the part of the grant that is in its most early state-of-development is creating sources for audience engagement such as through online tools and other programs.”

The three-year grant will fund four specific initiatives: programming through the creation of the Mondavi Center’s Studio Classics Series, which aim to present non-traditional thinking to the classical music performance space; artist residencies, which aims to bring more artists and orchestras to campus; audience engagement through mediums such as online tools; and student engagement through the Aggie Arts Classical Music Initiative.

The major focus lies in student involvement. Aggie Arts, which launched this Spring quarter, is a student internship that involves four selected students who create programs and feedback opportunities to gain more student participation from the overall campus. For three quarters and 10 hours a week, those select students will go through training and learn arts administration skills. During the final quarter, the students will produce their own show through the skills they have learned.

“We’re relying on these students to tell us how they would want to see these shows-how they would talk to their friends about these events,” said Rob Tocalino, director of marketing for the Mondavi Center, “They may even rely on Facebook or other forms of social media-it’s ultimately up to them. Getting them involved, to us, is more than just getting students to buy tickets; it means having their ideas on the table about what is interesting about what we do.”

With the funds from the Andrew W. Mellon Grant Foundation, programs like Aggie Arts and Studio Classics Series can be implemented, bringing forth a refreshing perspective on the current Mondavi programming.

“Frankly, we didn’t know we were going to be able to fund it because it required recruiting a volunteer but better yet, it needed to be a paid internship. When the [Andrew W.] Mellon Foundation project came along-we were able to include [paid internships] as a major initiative.” Roth said.

In the past academic year, 7 percent of tickets sales were of UC Davis students. This included students using their 50 percent discount or curriculum connections program. With the proposed initiatives, the Mondavi hopes to increase that percentage to 10 percent of total sales being of students. However, Roth is not concerned about tickets sales, but rather, the quality of the experience.

“At the end of the day, it isn’t a numbers game,” Roth said. “It’s really about people coming and having an experience that changes them. I know I never saw a modern dance performance until I went to college. And somebody dragged me to see Paul Taylor Dance Company and then I followed them the rest of my life.”

The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation currently makes yearly contributions to the five core areas: Higher Education and Scholarship; Scholarly, Communications and Information Technology; Museums and Art Conservation; Performing Arts and Conservation; the Environment.

For a variety of initiatives over time, this grant will put The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation contribution to UC Davis at over $5 million. Additionally, according to the UCD Office of University Development, the grant will count as part of The Campaign for UC Davis, a university-wide initiative to inspire 100,000 donors to contribute $1 billion to help further the university’s visions and goals.

UYEN CAO can be reached at arts@theaggie.org.

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