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The “Green” Scene:

May 8, 2011

Opera High Notes, Plus A Zoo Coup

Spotlighting major philanthropic feats in our city

By Nancy Staab

The Atlanta Opera and Zoo Atlanta both get major benefactors, plus Coca-Cola gives back

The Atlanta Opera's spring performancesof The Golden Ticket will be dedicated to late benefactor Barbara D. Stewart. The Atlanta Opera's spring performancesof The Golden Ticket will be dedicated to late benefactor Barbara D. Stewart.

Stewart’s Extravagant Coda

Late Atlanta philanthropist Barbara D. Stewart left a $9 million bequest to The Atlanta Opera, as well as an estimated $1.5 million each for the High Museum and Atlanta Symphony Orchestra, according to recent press releases from The Atlanta Opera and the Woodruff Arts Center. Pittsburgh native Stewart relocated her insurance consulting firm Stewart Economics, Inc., to Atlanta in 1992 and soon ensconced herself in our city’s local cultural scene. She served several roles on the Opera’s board of directors, including president, and was a regular contributor to the High  as well as to the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra. In honor of Stewart, The Atlanta Opera will dedicate one production each season to her memory. Next season’s dedicated performance will be a fanciful and comic adaptation of Ronald Dahl’s Charlie and the Chocolate Factory for the opera stage called The Golden Ticket, which will be performed March 3,6, 9 and 11 (tickets on sale now at 404.881.8885 or  (The search is on now to cast a local boy in the role of Charlie.) Atlanta Opera Board chairman Greg Johnson called Barbara Stewart’s extraordinary gift to Atlanta arts nothing less than “transformative.”

The new Coca-Cola book by Assouline. The new Coca-Cola book by Assouline.

Coca-Cola Doles out the Gifts on Its 125th Birthday Bash

It may be Coca-Cola’s 125th birthday this year, but it’s the beverage company that is doling out the gifts both to Atlanta and culture at large. In May the company hosted a huge birthday concert on the lawn of the Coca-Cola Museum that featured hometown faves like Ne-Yo, and they promise even more festivities throughout the year. Meanwhile, in May the company donated $1 million to The Statue of Liberty-Ellis Island Foundation, which, in a nice bit of synchonicity, is also celebrating its 125th anniversary this year. The money will go towards the foundation’s Peopling of America Center---a an ambitious museum that tells the expansive story of the immigration experience.  Coca-Cola CEO Muhtar Kent also gifted New York mayor Michael Bloomberg with a 5-foot miniature statue of Lady Liberty, done by the same artists as the original from Coca-Cola’s collection of Americana. Previously Coca-Cola had donated $5 million to help restore the Statue of Liberty in 1986. Lady Liberty and Coca-Cola…it doesn’t get more American than that.

Want to read more about this fabled Atlanta company? Check out the anniversary tribute book Coca-Cola published by Assouline ($65), which brims with iconic art and advertising images, from Rockwwell to Warhol, inspired by this addictive libation. A bit of trivia from the book: novelist John Cheever’s customary breakfast consisted of eggs, gin and you-guessed-it, Coca-Cola, while model Naomi Campbell was photographed using the iconic red Coke cans as hair rollers.

Zoo Atlanta Gets a $5 Million Windfall

The Joseph B. Whitehead Foundation (part of the Robert W. Woodruff family of foundations) recently gifted Zoo Atlanta with what Zoo Atlanta CEO Raymond King terms its largest single philanthropic gift in history, $5 million dollars. The money will go towards the Zoo’s $25.7 million capital campaign, including a major rebuilding of an amphibian and reptile house. To date, the Zoo has raise $14.1 million towards it campaign goal, according to The Atlanta Business Chronicle, with a $1 million corporate gift from Southern Co./Georgia Power Co., Zoo board members contributing $2 million, and UPS gifting $500,000.  Zoo Atlanta campaign chairs includes Stephanie and Arthur Blank, Cecelia and David Ratcliffe, Liz and Mark Lazarus, Danielle and Glen Rollins and Lovette and Michael Russell.