The Art of Giving
Jane Stephens Comer Supports Outreach and Education Programs for Children Through UAB’s Alys Robinson Stephens Performing Arts Center
|Jane Comer (center) with students from Glen Iris Elementary School: (front row) Camille Dansby
and Eric Stringer; (second row) Jayla Davis and Tamiah Haris; (third row) Tadarrius Givan and
The Alabama Chapter of the Association of Fundraising Professionals confirmed what many already knew about Jane Stephens Comer when the organization named her the 2009 Philanthropist of the Year: Comer has mastered the art of giving. Her most recent masterpiece for UAB is a gift of $5 million to the Alys Robinson Stephens Performing Arts Center (ASC) for a cultural-arts education program for Birmingham-area children in preschool through high school.
“A few years ago, Jane shared with us her life dream to create a place that would give children the opportunity to encounter all genres of visual and performing arts in an innovative environment. It would be a unique center for the arts where children and young people would have the opportunity to create performances, attend programs by world-class performing artists, and forge collaborative relationships with UAB, the Alys Stephens Center, and other organizations in the community in all arts genres,” UAB President Carol Garrison says. “After much research and planning, we are delighted to announce that Jane’s passion for the arts and her understanding of the profound impact the arts have on children are coming together to create exactly what she dreamed of—a cultural-arts education center for children—with this extraordinarily generous gift, for which we are so grateful.”
The cultural-arts center will be headquartered in a Victorian house that will soon be renovated on Birmingham’s Southside. The facility will not only house administrative offices but also different rooms for a variety of art forms, including dance, painting, music, and theater. An adjacent garden will eventually feature a potter’s wheel and sculpting classes. Children participating in the programs will be able to work with teaching artists and take part in small performances. (For more information, see “Creative Space” below.)
Comer has already provided tremendous support to the ASC. She was instrumental in founding the Kids’ Club Series, an annual series of shows designed to entertain, educate, and inspire children through the performing arts. She also has recently contributed to UAB’s new Women & Infants Center. Additionally, she has been a supporter of the Birmingham Museum of Art, the Alabama Ballet, the Alabama Symphony Orchestra, and the Women’s Fund of Greater Birmingham.
“The Alys Stephens Center has been one of the highlights of my life, and the joy that the Kids’ Club Series has given to me led us to this endeavor,” Comer says. “It’s very exciting, and it promises to be very original.” Some program events are slated to occur this summer, and the full program will launch during the 2010-2011 season.
Comer recently received the 2009 Honorary Life Member Award from the UAB National Alumni Society. This award is given to individuals whose contributions to UAB have benefited the entire university community. Comer dedicated it to the memory of her mother, the late Alys Robinson Stephens, for whom the Alys Stephens Center is named.
|A rendering of the future headquarters of the ASC arts-education facility|
Thanks to Jane Stephens Comer’s generous donation to UAB’s Alys Robinson Stephens Performing Arts Center (ASC), a new initiative for arts education is under way. In early 2011 a major part of this initiative, a cultural-arts education center for children, will open its doors to the public. Implemented and coordinated by Kimberly Kirklin and Theresa Bruno, the facility, located in Birmingham’s Southside at 1006 19th Street, will be home to ASC’s expanded education and outreach programming.
Arts classes will be available for all ages in dance, music, visual arts, film, theater, and the written word from local arts organizations and individual teachers. Students will enjoy these high-quality arts classes in a newly renovated Victorian house located only blocks away from the ASC.
“Part of Jane’s gift will go toward a major restoration project that will bring the house back to much of its original grandeur, providing an ideal setting for creative and innovative arts-education programs,” says Shirley Salloway Kahn, Ph.D., vice president for development, alumni, and external relations. “In addition to collaborations with community organizations, the arts-education center will partner with UAB departments for both class programming and research-based projects, endeavoring to further UAB’s reputation as a world-renowned research university through ongoing academic arts-education research. Thanks to Jane’s generous gift and remarkable vision, this cultural-arts center will be a truly exciting addition to UAB’s campus.”
Maintaining the Momentum / Winter/Spring 2010