ArtsGala raises more than $100K to help support Wright State arts programs

We share reflections from night celebrating up-and-coming performing artists

My favorite part of the ArtsGala at Wright State University’s Creative Arts Center on April 6 wasn’t the herb roasted lamb lollipops, tomato bisque shooters or beautiful array of pastry desserts. It wasn’t the valet parking, the red carpet or the wine tasting. It wasn’t the silent auction even though I went home with tickets to Dayton Theatre Guild’s upcoming season as well as the Dayton Performing Arts Alliance’s signature event in September.

Those things were exquisite, but my favorite part of the evening was seeing more than 400 students deliriously happy to share their talents and passion for the arts.

“The energy comes from a deep yearning of the students to do their best performances,” said W. Stuart McDowell, chair and artistic director for the Department of Theatre, Dance and Motion Pictures.

For the past 14 years, WSU’s College of Liberal Arts has hosted this magical event to raise money for scholarships in visual arts, film, theater, music and dance.

For WSU’s arts programs and students, it is “the single most important event of the year,” McDowell said.

WSU senior Megan Spencer demonstrated wood carving and printmaking while other artists worked on paintings for the silent auction that included more than 100 items. Rock and roll, jazz and chamber music filled the halls. There was a student film festival and scenes from the musical “Grand Hotel.” A skit called “Too Many Sopranos” was too much fun in the Recital Hall, and patrons packed the Herbst Theatre for Broadway show tunes.

Audience involvement included a dance floor at the “Jazz Cafe.” During the Broadway revue, I happened to be sitting near the performers when Justin Talkington pulled me onto the floor to dance.

“ArtsGala is a time when we are able to truly thank those who bless us financially in the arts,” Talkington said after the event. “It may seem like it’s simply a night of glamor and performance; however, it is the one night a year where we are able to showcase our talents for those who appreciate them most.”

The fundraiser drew 630 registered guests, a record number. “We were really thrilled to have so many people come out this year,” said Jennie Buckwalter, ArtsGala chair.

Previous galas raised $1.4 million. To that amount, Saturday’s event will add more than $100K, Buckwalter said.

The scholarships help students get through the program in four years. “Because we are performing in the fine arts, many of our students are cast in shows,” McDowell said. “They take classes and rehearse six days a week. They don’t have a lot of time to hold down jobs and the scholarships free them up.”

The ArtsGala also “raises awareness of the wealth of entertainment opportunities all year long,” Buckwalter said. To learn more about the performances, go to or call the Box Office at 937-775-2500.

Presenting sponsors for this year’s ArtsGala were Barnes & Noble at Wright State University and Morris Home Furnishings. Major sponsors included Dayton Daily News, Gloria and Don Graber, HORAN, THINK TV and WHIO-TV.

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