Patrons of the arts dined, danced and raised funds for arts programming in county and city schools on Friday at the annual Arts Ball hosted by Surry Arts Council.
More than 225 guests attended the event at Cross Creek Country Club which included a silent auction of more that 550 items. Preview bidding opened at noon with folks coming early to bid on popular items. Some of those more popular items included meals donated by hosts and chefs throughout the year, according to Tanya Jones, arts council executive director.
The dinners, with varying themes, locations and chefs, are a significant portion of the funds raised at the event, according to Jones.
“People pay between $100 and $150 to attend one of the meals,” said Jones. “They brought in over $12,000 and are an incredible addition to the Arts Ball.”
The meal opportunities on offer ranged from a “Backyard to Table” event at the home of Scott Lowry where he prepares a many-coursed meal made from produce grown in his home’s garden; a “Trapshooting and Seated Dinner” at the home of John and Debbie Lyon, co-hosted by Cooper and Ginny Adams, billed as a “garden and gun event;” cooking classes at Mike and Diane Bowman’s condo; the “Art of the Big Green Egg” hosted by Will and Christie Sheppard; “Guess who’s Coming to Dinner” with wine pairings and a dinner prepared by chef Chris Wishart; Teresa and Jim Lewis’ “Gourmet Dinner for 10;” a farm-to-table event at Bill and Margie Imus’ Minglewood Farm and Nature Preserve with produce from their farm and all ingredients from local sources; an “Around the World Dinner” hosted by Nicole and Skyler Harrison with chef Manju Wagner; and a “Chef’s Table Dinner” at Old North State Winery donated by Chris Wishart.
“Each person tries to outdo themselves from the previous year,” said Jones of the meals that are donated year after year. “People really have fun. We have a waiting list,” she said, in the event someone bids on one of the dinners and is unavailable on the date it is scheduled.
All of the proceeds from the event are used to provide free cultural arts programs for more than 24,000 students in 24 schools in Surry County, reaching every school in the Surry County Schools system, Mount Airy City Schools and Millennium Charter Academy.
With one program as a minimum goal for all schools, most schools receive two or three programs. Students in these 24 schools are also bused to one or more programs at the Andy Griffith Playhouse, the Historic Earle Theatre, and/or the Blackmon Amphitheatre. In addition, students visit the Andy Griffith Museum, the Old-Time Music Heritage Hall, and the Siamese Twins Exhibit at no cost.
Carrie Venable represented the Mount Airy City Schools and Sonia Dickerson served again this year as liaison for the Surry County Schools. Alicia Merritt represented Millennium Charter Academy and Jennie Lowry represented Downtown Mount Airy. All of the schools participated with both donations and attendance.
In addition to directly paying for school arts programs, the Arts Ball proceeds provide matching funds to leverage grants, including a $7,000 cARTwheels grant from the North Carolina Arts Council which funded a residency with jazz musician John Brown and the Traditional Arts Programs for Students (TAPS) grant. The TAPS grant had a three week in-school component at Cedar Ridge Elementary, White Plains Elementary, and Jones Intermediate School. Each student in grades three through five at Jones was able to hold and try to play a stringed instrument. This grant also funds weekly free lessons year-round so that interested students can pursue lessons at no charge. Hundreds of students are reached with hands-on learning through this program.
Other arts programs funded by Arts Ball this past year included performances of “Biscuit,” by Arts Power National Touring Theatre from New York for more than 1,500 students; 14 performances of “Tales of the Brothers Grimm” by Piedmont Opera and A. J. Fletcher Opera Institute of the UNC School of the Arts, and two showings of the Surry Arts Council production of “Romeo and Juliet” which was seen by area middle and high schools. Other programs included New York Theatre for Young Audiences performances of “Nutcracker,” Dr. Elliot Engel, Becky Buller Band, and Kidpower’s “Operation Lunch Line: 3D.”
Free movies at the Historic Earle Theatre are offered monthly for students with several thousand additional students attending these as part of incentive programs where students receive perks for various achievements. There is also a separate program of dance, drama and craft programs for exceptional students. These are funded in part by the Arts Ball and in part by the United Fund of Surry.
In addition to arts programs, the Surry Arts Council hosts numerous school holiday and year end band and choral concerts, school plays performed by students and music workshops.
Reach Bill Colvard at 336-415-4699.