Wilkins Foundation announces 2014 grants, some in 2015

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By FOSS FARRAR Traveler Correspondent
December 11, 2014 - 6:13pm

The Virginia J. Wilkins Foundation Board of Trustees has announced grant disbursements for 2014, totaling roughly $454,500.

The awards will go to seven Arkansas City organizations for the enhancement of arts-related activities.

The largest among the seven awards is a $200,000 grant to help to make the Burford Theatre complex operational at last, according to a press release from Otis Morrow, one of the foundation’s trustees.

In addition to receiving $200,000 this year for an ongoing Burford renovation project, the Arkansas City Area Arts Council will continue to receive $200,000 annually for the next nine years — for a total of $2 million, Morrow said.

“This is with the understanding that they will finish the project by 2016,” he said Thursday in a brief telephone interview.

Specifically, the grant is conditioned on the Burford complex’s becoming operational by July 1 of that year, according to the press release.

And the board of directors of the arts council must pledge to use tax credits that have been earned since the project began to assist in the operational expenses of the theater once it becomes operational, Morrow added.

The other six grants to be awarded this year range from $21,324 to $72,330.

They will go to USD 470, Cowley College, the Arkansas City Public Library, the City of Arkansas City, Cherokee Strip Land Rush Museum and the Chaplin Nature Center.

The late V.J. Wilkins established the foundation seven years before her death in 2012 to provide “a quality cultural environment of arts, music, language and other endeavors, which many times are overshadowed by the importance placed upon athletic achievements,” according to its mission statement.

The foundation’s funds are valued at more than $9 million.

This year’s awards total of roughly $454,500 exceeds the 5-percent minimum disbursement of the account value that is a requirement according to Internal Revenue Service regulations, according to the press release.

Morrow said the award recipients and amounts were decided during a daylong meeting of the trustees Dec. 1 at the University Club in downtown Denver.

He serves as one of four foundation trustees. The other trustees are V.J.’s cousins, Grant Wilkins and Jim Wilkins, both of Denver; and Karen Zeller, of Ark City, who operated Zeller Motor Co. with her late husband, Ed, for many years.

“We sifted through 90 pages of applications and measured them against the fund’s mission statement,” Morrow said. “We considered what projects we believed had the biggest impact on the community.”

The other grant awardees and project amounts are:

• USD 470 was awarded $57,500 for this year and the same amount for 2015, for a total of $115,000. The awards will be split to finance:

— improvement and expansion of musical and performing arts offerings aimed at providing cultural enrichment, educational enhancement, and a broader appreciation for the arts throughout the community ($18,500);

— in-school residencies at Arkansas City Middle School and Arkansas City High School, allowing visiting professionals to share with and inspire students to appreciate musical and performing arts ($38,200);

— improving the inventory of musical instruments, library and resources ($58,300).

• Cowley College was awarded $72,330 to finance:

— vocal and musical arts, including a jazz initiative to attract visiting guest artists, marketing equipment needs, and materials for seminars and workshops for Cowley College, the high school and the middle school, with a 2/3-day festival and workshop ($27,000);

— purchase of graphic design equipment for the visual arts ($15,530);

— assistance for theater programs ($29,800).

• The Arkansas City Public Library was awarded $18,764 to update technology by replacing computers and workstations ($4,989), and to enhance lighting for energy-efficient purposes and to provide a more inviting atmosphere to the reading public.

• The City of Arkansas City was awarded $53,973 for this year and $53,974 for 2015 — a total of $107,947 — to enhance and modernize the 100 year-old rotunda at Wilson Park.

The performing stage will be improved; enlarged; enhanced by sound, video and lighting; and equipped to make the stage Americans with Disabilities Act-compliant.

• Cherokee Strip Land Rush Museum was awarded $30,680 to replace its heating and air conditioning to provide controlled atmosphere for its artifacts, and to enhance its theater with a drop-down microphone system.

• The Chaplin Nature Center was awarded $21,324 to purchase a John Deere 2025-R utility tractor to help to maintain the trails at the nature center.