Wealthy American couple to help build new arts centre

A WEALTHY American couple, which supports the Vatican museum and has donated to the British Labour Party, plans to give almost €400,000 to help build a new arts centre in west Cork.

International financiers and philanthropists William and Judith Bollinger confirmed yesterday that they will match all donations up to €375,000 towards the construction of the new West Cork Arts Centre in Skibbereen.

Mr Bollinger, who has no connection to the champagne dynasty, has an estimated personal fortune of at least £75 million (€95m).

He is the founding partner of Egerton Capital Limited, a leading fund management business in London. He also donated £500,000 (€633,000) to the Labour Party in England between 2005 and 2006.

Ms Bollinger is independently wealthy and is the chairman of ABG Sundal Collier, a Nordic investment bank, and a trustee of the University of Pennsylvania.

They own a home in West Cork and are naturalised Irish citizens.

They are passionate about the arts, architecture and education and have an impressive track record of supporting the design and renovation of major artistic venues.

They gave £1.6m (€2.2m) towards the design and development of the recently reopened jewellery gallery at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London.

And they are also avid supporters of Independent Opera at Sadler’s Wells, the British Library and the Vatican museums.

The Bollingers said they wanted to make a significant, positive contribution to the West Cork Arts Centre to help increase the accessibility of the arts to both residents and visitors.

News of their support comes just days after the launch of an architectural design competition for the new €4.5m arts venue.

Majella O’Neill Collins, chairwoman of the West Cork Arts Centre’s board, said she was thrilled with the donation and said that it would boost fundraising efforts.

“It looks increasingly likely that West Cork Arts Centre will celebrate its 25th anniversary in its new premises in 2010,” she said.

The arts centre, established 21 years ago, is based in an outdated building, rented from the VEC on North Street.

The new venue will be built on the former Wolfe’s Bakery site, overlooking Field’s car park and Main Street.

The building, which has been deemed derelict, will be demolished to make way for the new venue.

The arts centre has teamed up with the Royal Institute of Architects of Ireland (RIAI) to run the design competition, with closing dates for phase one on September 5.

The winning design will be announced in January 2009 and work is expected to commence on the site as soon as full planning and tender is completed. The projected completion date is towards the end of 2010.

The West Cork Arts Centre has already secured €1.5m in anchor funding from the Department of Arts, Sports and Tourism and €1.4m from Cork County Council.

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