Wright State’s ArtsUNgala fundraiser a success, organizers say

Sponsors, patrons, community members, faculty and staff generously contributed to ArtsGala even after the event was canceled.

Credit: Tom Gilliam

Credit: Tom Gilliam

One of the first major area events that had to switch gears to an online platform after the coronavirus shutdown was Wright State University's ArtsGala. It's a highly anticipated annual event, showcasing the talent of hundreds of students in front of more than 800 patrons, with live performances, multiple dining experiences, and more.

In its 21-year history, ArtsGala has raised over $3 million for scholarships for students in the fine and performing arts.

This year’s event was planned for Saturday, March 28, a mere four days after Ohio’s stay at home order went into effect. For Nick Warrington, the brand new director of events and community engagement at Wright State, it was quite the curveball for the first ArtsGala he had helped plan.

>> BACKGROUND:  ArtsUNGala: How you can support Wright State students from your couch

Credit: Tom Gilliam

Credit: Tom Gilliam

When planning this year’s event, Warrington and ArtsGala co-chairs David and Nancy Smith were eager to increase attendance, expand the audience, and provide new experiences for patrons. “We had a lot of grand plans for this year’s ArtsGala,” Warrington said in a release. “Obviously, none of that was able to happen.”

When the ArtsGala was canceled, Warrington and the host committee had to quickly create a new concept. The committee decided to launch ArtsUNGala to raise critical scholarship dollars for students in the Department of Art and Art History, the School of Music and the Department of Theatre, Dance and Motion Pictures. The ArtsUNGala took form as a crowdfunding campaign that ran from March 26 through  April 15.

>> READ MORE: Dayton arts community facing 'crisis'

The majority of patrons who had already purchased tickets to the event donated all or a portion of their tickets to the fund. Between those donations and generous support from ArtsGala sponsors, the crowdfunding campaign is expected to bring in $150,000, after non-refundable expenses are taken out.

The committee is very pleased with the results of ArtsUNgala, particularly in light of the fact that other revenue streams were not available this year, such as the silent auction and sales in the cigar tent.

“The amount raised this year is very much on par with the amount raised in a typical year when the event is held in person,” Warrington said.

Credit: Erin Pence

Credit: Erin Pence

In addition, there's one more opportunity to raise funds for ArtsUNgala. Each year, two pieces of student artwork are selected by the host committee to be the signature items in the silent auction. Richard and Carol Lundin, owners of Front Street Art Studios and Galleries, have offered to sell this year's student artwork on their website.

Unlike the silent auction, both works of art have a set retail price and will be sold to the first individuals to purchase them online. To view the two pieces, "A Clearing Ahead" by William Worley and "Mist Bowl" by Eric Denlinger, click here.

>> READ MORE: This new online storefront gives Dayton artists a place to display, sell their work

While there’s still much uncertainty about the impact of the pandemic on future events, Warrington and the ArtsGala host committee are moving forward with plans for 2021.

“One of the most important things to me is thinking about how we recognize the seniors of 2020,” said Warrington. “They had already started working so hard, not only on ArtsGala, but they were in rehearsals for ‘Mamma Mia!’ and a whole bunch of spring programs. I want to find a special way to incorporate them in 2021.”

Next year’s ArtsGala is planned for April 10, 2021 from 6 p.m. to midnight at Wright State’s Creative Arts Center.

Credit: Tom Gilliam

Credit: Tom Gilliam

Stories of hope

We all need inspiration in these difficult times. And as always, this community delivers. We are sharing these stories of hope in action, every day in the Dayton Daily News.

About the Author