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GoggleWorks Center for the Arts endowment reaches nearly $12 million

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GoggleWorks Center for the Arts has now received nearly $12 million in donations toward its new Fund for the Future of GoggleWorks, officials announced Thursday.

Those contributions, most of which came in over the last two years, will allow the downtown Reading facility to keep its work going and further expand its mission of transforming lives through unique interactions with art, GoggleWorks officials said.

The nonprofit center, which had been a shuttered goggle factory, opened 15 years ago. It draws 250,000 visitors annually, officials said.

The fund was set up late last year, and the money will be used for operating expenses, capital projects and new programs, said Levi Landis, GoggleWorks president and executive director.

“These gifts from inside and outside of our community comprise a vote of confidence, recognizing GoggleWorks among the vanguard of organizations addressing tangible, significant community needs through nationally-renowned arts programs,” board chair Tod Auman said in a press release.

The 145,000-square-foot facility is one of the largest art centers in the country and offers year-round arts education, as well as hosting 35 on-site studio artists and the Albert and Eunice Boscov Theatre. Among the mediums that artists engage in there are hot glass, wood, 2D, print, warm glass, metals, ceramics, photography, virtual reality and gardening.

The funding

The Windgate Foundation, which is based in Arkansas and supports contemporary craft and visual arts programs across the US, contributed $7.8 million to the fund. The foundation previously provided a matching grant of $1 million in 2019.

The foundation is a major force in using the arts to transform the world and its influence includes Berks, Landis said.

“After we reported success in matching the initial grant, Windgate announced they had been watching our work and they wanted to give an additional $7.8 million,” said GoggleWorks trustee Gust Zogas. “It’s a testament to the leadership of Levi, who championed this campaign and who collaborated with his great team and our community to make GoggleWorks more impactful and sustainable.”

Marlin Miller, who co-founded GoggleWorks with the late Albert Boscov and the late Irvin Cohen and has supported it since, contributed $1 million to the campaign along with his wife, Regina.

“Development of this endowment provides long-term support to the original vision of developing a community asset for observing, learning and expressing creativity,” he said. “GoggleWorks is a unique facility, now with a firm foundation, that can foster that creative activity well into the future.”

The Neag Foundation awarded a $500,000 grant.

“Community programs for the arts engage and delight students and adults and help bring the arts to schools and our broader community,” said Neag trustee Carole Neag. “Our foundation is based on the premise that the arts bring us joy, help us understand our world and enable us to improve our well-being. We are proud to support Goggleworks’ important art initiatives.”

Former trustee Pam Barbey contributed $500,000 with her husband, Peter, through the Edwin Barbey Charitable Trust.

“The art center is so important to Reading, its business development and most importantly the community,” she said.

Zogas, who also contributed $260,000 toward the fund, said the campaign was started with a contribution of $260,000 in 2018 by Dena Hammel and her husband, Victor.

“Such a remarkable and unexpected gift by the Hammels made us start to see that this was possible, that we could really dream about GoggleWorks impacting artists, residents, visitors, and young people for years to come,” Zogas said.

Dena Hammel said she has been involved with GoggleWorks since its beginning and spoke of its development as a Berks asset.

“I’m particularly delighted to observe the creative arts programs designed for children,” she said. “It was for that reason that Vic and I chose to establish an endowment designated for children’s arts programming. We are thrilled that others have also contributed and to see how the endowment has grown. We hope others will continue to invest in the future of Goggleworks and the arts in our community.”

Shirley Boscov, sister of Albert Boscov and long-time supporter of the arts center, pledged $50,000 to the fund.

Auman said GoggleWorks leaders are thrilled by the support, which is necessary to keep developing sustainable programs that serve the community.

“Our building is a tremendous asset,” he said. “Yet we regularly see capital and overhead costs close to $500,000 annually. This endowment is an important step toward ensuring and communicating our resilience, but we must go further to thrive.”

Landis said the center will have another announcement this year regarding a further expansion of its mission but did not give further details.

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