The Del Mar Foundation celebrates 1982 as its founding year, but preliminary work to establish the Foundation occurred in 1981. The Foundation was established in part to manage the Del Mar Day event and its finances, following the success of the first Del Mar Day in 1980. From the beginning, the founding Directors (Lou Terrell, Joel Holliday, and Bill Kirwin) articulated an expansive and ambitious vision for the fledgling organization, including cultural and arts programming, raising and granting funds for the benefit of the Del Mar community, supporting the City’s acquisition of open space and other key properties for public use, and establishing an endowment to meet long-term needs.
From vision to reality
Throughout the nearly four decades since these early boards declared their vision for the Foundation, hundreds of Board members and other volunteers have worked to bring it to fruition.
The vision of musical, cultural arts and educational programs grew steadily from those first Twilight and Spring concerts. With the completion of the Powerhouse renovation in December 1999, the newly formed Cultural Arts set up an indoor concert series called “First Thursdays” with a speaker series, jazz, classical, and rock concerts on a subscription basis. In 2004, the Bluegrass and Beyond series was created by the Cultural Arts Committee, bringing nationally-acclaimed bluegrass and acoustic artists first to the Powerhouse, and now to Town Hall. DMF Talks, launched in 2012, has become the Foundation’s signature speaker series.
That early vision also brought many arts projects to Del Mar over the years. Three notable examples: The Foundation’s month-long “Art in Public Places” program in 1984 featured the temporary installation of large-scale artworks by highly-acclaimed artists in various outdoor spaces in Del Mar, including a performance art piece on the beach. In 1998-99, the Foundation served as fiscal sponsor for the purchase and installation of the site-specific, commissioned James Hubbell sculpture placed at the Library after it moved into the renovated St.James. In 2002, the Foundation sponsored Payasada, with artist-painted horses placed throughout town. And the Foundation served as fiscal sponsor for the mosaic wall (in front of the library) two times: in 2002-03, when the mosaic was originally installed, and in 2013, for a major restoration to repair water damage and ensure proper drainage.
The vision of fostering community cohesiveness brought such events as “end of summer celebration” community beach picnics featuring the Del Mar tradition of lemon cake, held in 1988 and various years since. Today’s Picnic at Powerhouse Park carries on that tradition, as do Community Night Out and Meet and Greet events.
The vision to fund projects enriching the quality of life led to early and long-enduring support for programs such as Junior Lifeguards and arts, cultural and environmental programs in our schools. The Foundation also served as an incubator for other Del Mar nonprofits that contribute to Del Mar’s quality of life.
- In 1985, it provided seed money for the creation of the Del Mar Historical Society (DMHS), and later, in 2013, it became the fiscal sponsor for approx. $50,000 in DMHS funds dedicated to the relocation of the Alvarado House to a permanent site in Del Mar, overseeing the investment of those funds consistent with the fund’s purpose.
- In 1996-97, the Foundation served as the fiscal sponsor for the fundraising drive of the Powerhouse Restoration Committee, which under Barbara Harper’s leadership raised over $500,000 to restore and renovate the Powerhouse. Once the restoration was completed, the Committee was spun off as a separate 501(c)(3) nonprofit for continuing financial support of the Powerhouse Community Center, park and beach.
- In 1999, the Foundation provided seed money and served as the fiscal sponsor of Del Mar Community Connections, which provides invaluable services to Del Mar’s seniors, until it was organized as a separate 501(c)(3) organization.
The vision to create a community endowment was perhaps the most audacious idea the first Board articulated in 1983. By Sept. 1989, the Board had created an endowment fund of $100,000 under the leadership of President Rosanne Holliday. In 2004, an agreement with the San Dieguito River Valley JPA signed by Foundation President Lynn Gaylord resulted in the transfer of $500,000 to the Foundation, to be managed as an endowment to provide funding for the future physical maintenance and management of the San Dieguito Lagoon once responsibility for maintenance of the lagoon transfers from Southern California Edison to the JPA (an event which has not yet occurred). The creation of the Lagoon Endowment spurred the development of investment and financial management expertise within the Foundation that would make management of a significant community endowment possible.
In the Foundation’s 25th year (2007), that early vision was fully realized with the formal launch of the community endowment, with the initial goal to raise $600,000 in 2007-08. Joel Holliday, who had first articulated this vision in 1983 as one of the three original board members, served as the development chair guiding the establishment of the community endowment and leading the founding endowment campaign. Today, the Foundation manages more than $5 million in endowment funds.
The commitment to capital improvement and projects and public spaces can be found in many projects over the years: in 1989, to beautify residential streets and assist in improving Powerhouse Park, and a decade later, in the Foundation’s fiscal sponsorship and a $10,000 grant for the campaign to renovate the Powerhouse, with the Powerhouse Community Center celebrating its grand opening in Dec. 1999. The Foundation’s history of funding Del Mar Garden Club-led public garden projects included a 1991 garden at the Post Office, followed by similar grants for other downtown and public spaces. In later decades, the Foundation’s greater resources resulted in a $35,000 grant for Shores Park acquisition, and a $35,000 grant for construction of the Beach Safety Center and Lifeguard Headquarters, with an additional $10,000 grant for the adjacent boardwalk and garden.
In later decades, the Foundation’s greater resources resulted in a $35,000 grant for Shores Park acquisition, and a $35,000 grant for construction of the Beach Safety Center and Lifeguard Headquarters, with an additional $10,000 grant for the adjacent boardwalk and garden. The Foundation made a $125,000 grant for community-serving amenities for the Del Mar Civic Center, including staging and other furnishings and a state-of-the-art sound system for community events in Town Hall, elements of the catering kitchen that support nonprofit and community uses, and outdoor furniture that welcomes the community to the beautiful plaza spaces. More recently, the Foundation made a $180,000 grant to the City in response to Covid-19 impacts on the City’s budget, funding major repairs to the Beach Safety Center, Phase 3 of the River Path Del Mar, extending the existing trail from the Grand Ave. Overlook (Bridge) to Crest Canyon, and other important community amenities.
Throughout the Foundation’s history, even as it continually adapts to changing times, its diverse array of programs, activities, and grants have something important in common: to stay true to the visionary course adopted by its founders and to develop and manage the resources that make it possible to bring that vision to fruition.