Asian Indians begin fundraising drive for Performing Arts Center Eastside

Asian Indians make up a growing segment of the Eastside immigrant population, with many coming to the area in search of high-tech jobs and the American dream.

Now a group representing that same community is working on a different type of vision – one of giving back.

Indian Community Eastside (ICE) formed earlier this year with a mission of raising $1 million for the proposed Performing Arts Center Eastside (PACE) by the summer of 2009.

“We want to demonstrate good citizenship by taking an active role in building the community around us rather than being spectators or bystanders,” said ICE co-chair Alka Badshah. “Getting involved is our way of expressing gratitude for the opportunities we have found here.”

The 2,000-seat performing arts center in downtown Bellevue will cost around $160 million, of which 20 percent already has been pledged.

All groups that donate $1 million or more to the project get to dedicate and name a space at the theater. ICE is the first organization to make such a commitment.

“A named space honors the group’s role in creating PACE, makes a public statement about the group’s generosity to the community and celebrates the group’s contribution to arts and culture on the Eastside,” said PACE Development Director Linda Bonomi.

ICE already has raised $400,000 toward its goal, with a lead gift of $100,000 coming from Vijay and Sita Vashee.

The group’s five co-chairs, all Indian women, intend to use their PACE fundraising efforts as a springboard for future philanthropic endeavors that will focus on children, education and the arts.

Badshah credits PACE with giving the fledgling ICE organization a purpose.

“It kind of started as a circle of friends,” Badshah said. “We tend to have a little more time, and we all share the common goal that something needs to be done for the community.”

Most of the women are also involved in the arts, whether it’s teaching Indian dance or collecting Indian artwork. With a new regional theater in the works, it only made sense for ICE to jump on board the fundraising campaign, Badshah said.

The co-chairs haven’t chosen a name for their space at the performing arts center yet.

“We’re throwing around a lot of ideas,” Badshah said. “We don’t want this to be a family name, just something that represents India.”

The idea is to leave a visible legacy for future generations of Indians, according to Badshah.

“They will be able to draw inspiration from our involvement for years to come,” she said.

Joshua Adam Hicks can be reached at jhicks@bellevuenews.us or 425-453-4290.