BY CARA BARUZZI
NEW HAVEN — First Niagara Financial Group will be the marquee sponsor of this year’s International Festival of Arts & Ideas, paying $100,000 for the sponsorship, bank and festival officials said Wednesday.
The company’s commitment will ensure the festival’s free opening-night programming can return to the Green and will help cover incremental costs associated with an opening night concert by the Silk Road Ensemble with Yo-Yo Ma, according to festival officials.
The festival is slated to kick off its 16th season June 11.
“The International Festival of Arts & Ideas is a perfect fit for us in the New Haven community as it brings some of the world’s most prestigious artists to the area at a venue that is accessible to all,” First Niagara New England Regional President David Ring said in a statement.
“Helping to continue the great work done by the festival and allowing them to host Yo-Yo Ma to the New Haven Green is just the first of many initiatives that First Niagara will support in order to demonstrate our commitment to becoming an integral part of the community,” he said.
First Niagara of Buffalo, N.Y., last month completed its acquisition of NewAlliance Bancshares.
Mary Lou Aleskie, executive director of the International Festival of Arts & Ideas, said First Niagara’s sponsorship will have a big impact on the event.
“Like organizations all over the country, the recession hit us hard and last year we were forced to reduce the number of artists we could present free of charge,” she said in a statement. “We are extremely grateful to our new friends at First Niagara, whose extraordinary generosity restores the festival’s cornerstone free opening night programming of the highest caliber.
In addition to the bank’s marquee sponsorship, the festival has secured several presenting sponsors, including the New Haven Register.
With the help of sponsors, the event will offer more than 80 percent of its programming for free to the public, according to organizers.
This year’s festival theme is “Across Borders, Beyond Time.”
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