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Bainbridge Arts and Crafts boosted by $1 million endowment

An anonymous individual has made a $1 million donation to Bainbridge Arts and Crafts for the establishment of a long-term endowment, the non-profit announced Wednesday.

BAC staffers said that on receiving the news they were, in a word, "flabbergasted."

"It's so incredibly validating," Executive Director Susan Jackson said. "It validates all the work we do. It's not just the time that I've been there, but it's 60 years of Bainbridge Arts and Crafts."

The donor wishes to remain "deeply anonymous," as education and information director Victoria Josslin put it. What she and Jackson can say is that the individual is a resident of Bainbridge who has long been a friend to the organization.

"This is a person from the island; it's not someone from Milwaukee who came and fell in love with the gallery," Jackson said.

The terms of the gift stipulate that the principal amount will be permanently maintained, while providing BAC with an income equal to roughly 6 percent of its current operating budget. Jackson is still fine-tuning the budget for the upcoming fiscal year but estimates it at between $650,000 and $700,000.

The endowment is to be used toward operating costs only, which include staff salaries, rent, exhibition costs and educational outreach. These efforts help the organization fulfill a mission that has remained essentially the same since its inception 60 years ago: to present fine arts and crafts to the public while offering opportunities for community education and creative achievement.

The gift comes at a particularly opportune time for BAC, when a flagging economy and reduced gallery sales had recently forced Jackson to trim payroll by 20 percent. And to help ensure the fund's growth, BAC is in the process of putting together an endowment committee.

"It's a confidence vote that we're enormously touched by, and that we want to live up to," Josslin said.

Meanwhile, Jackson hopes that the example of this gift will help underscore the organization's value in the community, and encourage future giving.

"To have somebody turn around and say, I think you're worth this fabulous amount of money, it's stunning," Jackson said. "It makes me very proud."

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