The effort to build a performing arts center in southwest Iowa is getting a boost from a favorite son and former top entertainer. Former “Tonight Show” host Johnny Carson is giving the Performing Arts and Education Association in Red Oak what executive director Sally Foss calls a substantial donation. Foss sought the help after learning of Carson’s generosity for other area projects. She says she got the address to Carson’s foundation and wrote the most persuasive letter she could. She says Carson called back, but she hadn’t been able to make it into the office because of snow. She called him back and Carson answered and said he was interested in funding the project. Foss says there was one aspect of the center that really appealed to Carson. She says that was the classroom/rehearsal space. It’s the same size as the performance stage, so people can rehearse on the same size space on which they’ll perform. The proposed center will cost five-and-a-half million dollars. Foss says Carson asked that the dollar amount of his donation not be revealed. She says Carson said he does not want his name on the building as he says it would distract from the reason they’re there, and it doesn’t matter who gave the money, it matters what happens in the facility. She says she asked if they could use his name in the media and she says Carson asked, “Do you think it will help?” She told him of course it would help. Carson has made a series of donations to projects in southwest Iowa, including 75-thousand dollars to a skatepark in Corning — the city where he was born in 1925.
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