New England Aquarium Forgoes Annual Gala to Note Its 40th Year

September 3, 2009 — Feeling that the current recession is not the time to host a gala fundraiser to celebrate its fortieth anniversary, the New England Aquarium instead opted to engage with the local community through a series of free “Community Nights” which culminated last Sunday, drawing 2,000 people of Caribbean origin to one of Boston’s premier visitor attractions.

Bud Ris, president and CEO, of the New England Aquarium, said, "We decided against having a gala because we felt it was not appropriate to do that kind of fundraiser in a recession year. Our time would be better spent engaging as many people as possible in the Aquarium’s mission and programs, continuing to build relationships one-on-one with individual donors and utilizing our resources to offer low-cost, high-impact events to the broader community, such as the Community Nights.

“We felt it was important to give something back to the city – after 40 years – and to expand our reach in a welcoming way to the growing immigrant populations of Boston. That is the strategy we have followed."

He added that the Aquarium will hold galas every other, starting next year.

Starting in July, 275 people attended Brazilian Night. That grew to 1,224 for Latino Night; 2,300 for Chinese Night; and finally 2,000 for Caribbean Night

The events, sponsored by the Lowell Institute, were open to all members of the public, but a special invitation and effort went out to these new immigrant groups in the metropolitan Boston area.

The IMAX film, “Deep Sea, 3D” was offered in Spanish, Portuguese, or Cantonese soundtracks for the first three events, and “Under the Sea 3D” was offered in English for Caribbean Night.

Translators were also on hand inside the Aquarium to interpret exhibits and global conservation efforts.

Ris said the events provided “a great way for us to give back to the community that has supported us in the heart of the city for the last 40 years,” as well as introduce residents to the New Balance Foundation Marine Mammal Center, which opened in July.

The Aquarium is also working to make its exhibits accessible to foreign-language speakers as well as to the hearing impaired with its new Untravel and Blue Impact tours. Tour guides for the Aquarium is also now offered in Cantonese, Portuguese, German, French, and Spanish.

Earlier this month, readers of El Planeta, a Spanish-speaking newspaper in the Boston area, named the New England Aquarium their most favorite tourist destination in the city.