U.Va. receives $50M gift for new performing arts center
Charlottesville-area philanthropist Tessa Ader makes major donation
The University of Virginia announced Friday it has received a $50 million lead gift to build a performing arts center, a donation by Tessa Ader, a prominent Charlottesville-area philanthropist who serves on the Fralin Museum of Art advisory board at U.Va.
“My late husband, Richard, and I long felt that a state-of-the-art performing arts center was needed by the University of Virginia,” Ader said in a statement. “As a longtime trustee of The Joseph and Robert Cornell Memorial Foundation, Richard and his co-trustee Joe Erdman made transformative gifts to the university and Charlottesville in support of the arts. I believe this new facility will be a wonderful asset to our community and am hopeful my gift will encourage others to come forward as well to make it a reality.”
Richard Ader, who died in 2019, was an attorney based at the Manhattan firm Greenbaum, Wolff & Ernst, and represented artists including Joseph Cornell, for whom he was estate executor. After retirement, the Aders lived in the Charlottesville area, and in December 2020, Tessa Ader created the Richard M. and Tessa G. Ader Endowed Fund for Music Education at the Charlottesville Symphony at U.Va.
The new performing arts center — with a 1,100-seat concert hall, a 150-seat recital hall and practice space — will be in the Emmet-Ivy corridor near other facilities being built, including the School of Data Science and the Karsh Institute of Democracy. Ader’s gift will lead the funding of the center. The design process is expected to start soon, but a timeline for completion of the center has not been set yet.
“I am excited and humbled by Tessa’s decision to help us provide a new home for the arts at U.Va.,” university President Jim Ryan said in a statement. “Her gift, which clearly stems from a love for all forms of creativity, will provide the U.Va. community with new opportunities for participation in the arts. It will also warmly invite the broader community to Grounds through performances by world-renowned artists and our talented students. The performing arts center will be a place that celebrates the arts as fundamental to the human condition, a university education and a democratic society.”
Ader’s gift is among the largest in the university’s history, including a $50 million donation by alumni Martha and Bruce Karsh announced in June to establish the democracy institute.