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Arts Plaza Gets Gift of $1.5 Million

Finances: Donation boosts effort past fund-raising goal. It marks the first major charitable contribution for Lake Sherwood couple.


THOUSAND OAKS — Extending a hot streak that has pushed them past a major fund-raising goal, leaders of the Alliance for the Arts announced a $1.5-million gift Thursday to the Civic Arts Plaza.

Spurred by the desire to have culture available for their children, William D. and Beverly Dallas of Lake Sherwood gave the money to the City Hall and theater complex and bestowed their names on Dallas Drive, the street that leads to the Civic Arts Plaza.

The donation, which helps the alliance meet a goal to raise $15 million by the end of the year, is the Dallas family's first major charitable donation, Bev Dallas said.

"We thought about it long and hard," said Bev Dallas, an aerobics instructor and mother of four, who is expecting another child next month. "We decided giving back to our community was the only way to go."

Music lovers who hold season tickets at the Civic Arts Plaza, the Dallases have lived in the Westlake area since 1989. William Dallas, 42, is the chairman and chief executive officer of First Financial Corp., just purchased by Bank America Investment Corp. A former Miss Minnesota Teen, 36-year-old Bev Dallas plays guitar and sings.

Their donation was announced Thursday at a board meeting of the alliance, the arts plaza's nonprofit fund-raising arm.

William Dallas could not attend the meeting because of work commitments. In a statement, he said, "Every child deserves a balanced upbringing. Only the arts can give us this sense of completeness."

The couple's sons, who range in age from 1 to 16, are already avid Civic Arts Plaza patrons, with the younger boys favoring "Sesame Street Live" and "The Sound of Music."

"We took a really big leap," Bev Dallas said. "You would think that giving away this kind of money might be hard, but it's not. We're really happy about it."

The alliance board members were likewise thrilled, particularly because the gift brings the group's fund-raising total to $15.5 million for the 4-year-old Civic Arts Plaza, which has attracted more than a million visitors.

"They say, 'If you build it, they will come,' " said Bob Lewis, outgoing alliance board president. "Well, we built it, and they keep coming."

Over the past few months, the alliance has been on a fund-raising tear, receiving donations of $2.5 million from businessman Fred Kavli, $1 million from Janet and Ray Scherr and $500,000 from G.H. and Diane Jones.

"I don't know what else to say about the last year other than, 'Wow,' " said Patricia Moore, the alliance's executive director. "We haven't had this much excitement since the opening."

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