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ICA completes $50 million fund-raising campaign

The Institute of Contemporary Art has completed a $50 million fund-raising campaign meant to boost its endowment, pay off a small amount of debt from the construction of its building, and support its operating budget over the next five years.

The campaign’s completion, announced to the museum’s trustees on Wednesday, marks an important step in the ICA’s effort to create more year-to-year stability. The museum’s endowment will increase from just under $10 million to $25 million. That’s still small for an institution that has a $13 million annual budget and has had around 200,000 people a year visit the Fan Pier building it opened in 2006.

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“The old ICA really had no endowment,” said board president Chuck Brizius. “I think everybody knew this is where we were headed. Now that we’ve done this as a first step, we’re getting ourselves in a better position.”

Museums generally build bigger endowments so they can rely less on donations and hard-to-predict attendance. Of the $50 million the ICA raised, $23.3 million will go to its operating budget, spread over the next five years. The endowment will be increased by $19.2 million, $4.7 million will pay off remaining debt from the building construction, and $3 million will be put into a reserve fund for upkeep.

During the campaign, three key posts were endowed: the ICA’s directorship by Ellen Poss, the chief curator post by Barbara Lee, and the senior curator by Tristan and Martin Mannion. In all, the ICA received 21 seven-figure gifts, with a total of $25 million from Poss, Lee, outgoing ICA chairman Paul Buttenwieser, Fotene Demoulas, and an anonymous donor. The Barr Foundation also made a lead gift. The ICA would not reveal the exact amount each gave.

Barr Foundation cofounder Barbara Hostetter credited director Jill Medvedow for rallying the ICA’s supporters at a time when the economy was flagging.

“It’s very important, I think, that Jill has been plugging away at this,” said Hostetter. “It had to get done, and it hasn’t been easy.”

Medvedow said that the number that matters most to her is the increasing amount of the ICA’s annual budget that will now come out of the endowment. It was about 2 percent when the campaign started. It will now be 14 percent. Her goal is to have 20 percent of the annual budget covered by endowment income.

“It’s easier to raise money for a building,” said Medvedow. “You have a big prize at the end. This is in many ways less showy. But it is really the longer-term, critical work that every museum must do to be able to be a force.”

Geoff Edgers can be reached at gedgers
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