Academy of the Arts launches 500 for 100 Challenge

Posted2/27/2022 1:00 AM

NAPERVILLE -- Academy of the Arts, a new, nonprofit academic and art school, raised nearly $200,000 last week at its first major fundraising event, a concert and reception featuring Broadway performers. It also announced a new campaign called the 500 for $100 Challenge to secure another $600,000 and solidify its projection to begin programming this fall. The school plans to fully open for the 2030 academic year.

Buoyed by a $100,000 grant from Alesia Family Foundation, and with the response thus far to its fundraising efforts, the Academy Board is optimistic about its goals and timeline. Eden Alpert, the daughter of legendary musician and producer Herb Alpert, leads the Alesia Family Foundation and announced the pledge at the Feb. 18, event.


"The arts and music are a form of therapy and expression," said Alpert, who also is a managing partner in her father's Bel-Air, California, restaurant and jazz club, Vibrato. "To have a space that provides compassion and creativity in our society is a gift all children deserve and need."

In announcing the grant Alpert turned to the 300-person concert audience and said, "Let's keep donating and make this happen. Let's make a dream come true!"

The event itself was funded in part by a $10,000 donation from AARP, and was supported by in-kind donations from many local businesses -- from florists to food and beverage suppliers -- and by silent auction donations. The balance of funds raised came through the silent auction, ticket sales and gifts.

Academy Co-Founder Dylan Ladd says the first-year fundraising goal is $2 million, and the Academy's 500 for 100 Challenge -- in which the Academy is seeking 500 individuals to donate $100 per month for one year, with their contribution memorialized on the Founders' Wall when the school fully opens -- will secure one-third of that goal, with foundation grants and in-kind support rounding out the goal. In just five days since the Challenge was launched, 24 donors have committed representing nearly $30,000 in support.

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"Getting the support of the Alesia Family Foundation, and of an organization as far-reaching as AARP not only helps us move toward our fundraising goals, but it really legitimizes what we are doing here," said Academy Co-Founder Dylan Ladd. "It's all about awareness at this point -- once people learn about what we are doing they don't hesitate to give what they can."

Ladd's mission is to build and open the school for grades 6 through 12, offering the core academic areas of math, reading, language arts, social studies and science, along with a range of visual arts and performing arts programs, by the 2030 academic year.

"We have a lot of work ahead before we have our state-of-the-art facility and our first class of full-time students," Ladd said.

The facility is a planned world-class arts center: A 1,200-seat auditorium with a proscenium stage, fly loft and orchestra pit, an outdoor amphitheater, a modular black box theater and dance studios, and academic classrooms.

Performers participating in the Feb. 18 concert were Julia Murney who last appeared on Broadway in Wicked; Olympic gymnast turned Broadway's Peter Pan Cathy Rigby; Karen Mason, an Arlington Heights native who most recently played Mrs. Marsh in Ryan Murphy's Halston on Netflix; Zonya Love who played Celie in The Color Purple; Chadae Nichol, a Joliet native who made her Broadway debut in Motown the Musical; and Meecah who is on tour with Hamilton.

Eden Alpert is among the Academy's artistic advisers who include Hamilton composer and arranger Alex Lacamoire, actor Stephen Wallem best known for his role on Netflix's Nurse Jackie, pop singer Taylor Dayne, choreographer Jack Sippel and dance soloist Keelan Whitmore.

Learn more about the Academy, the 500 for $100 Challenge and other opportunities to support its mission at

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