The Walton Arts Center's Corporate Leadership Council played host to the 12th annual Masquerade Ball on Feb. 25 at the arts center in Fayetteville. Tom Ward of Walmart served as this year's honorary chairman with co-chairmen Jeff Clapper of 8th & Walton and Tony Waller of Walmart. The event helped raise more than $180,000, a record, that will go to support the arts education work of the Walton Arts Center in our community.
"For most young people, it is through their schools they are introduced to the arts ... Our goal is simply to make the arts available to every child in Northwest Arkansas," Peter Lane, center president and CEO, told those gathered. "Thanks to you our programs are free to every student and teacher," which allows the center to serve more than 20,000 students annually, making it one of the largest performing arts educational programs in Arkansas.
Clapper and Waller introduced the evening's fundraising drive to "Pack the WAC" with kids. Clapper said $20 covers one child attending a show with the goal of the drive being to fill the center's 1,200 seats "a whole lot of times."
"Think about arts and the significance of arts in all our lives," Clapper continued. "For most of us professionally, we don't carry on as performers or as musicians or in any way today. But a lot of us participated in band, orchestra, theater -- whatever it was. I think it's relevant because band, art, all of this, creates a space where we can be ourselves and who doesn't want to foster more of that?"
"There are kids all around the state who have never been to a theater," but due to Corporate Leadership Council and other support, "they get on a bus and they ride down the road and they show up here and they pile into this room. For the first time, they see a performance onstage and they're like 'Oh my gosh, that person lives across the world and they're not that different from me,' and they understand people a little bit better after that."
Masked backers at the ball stepped up to contribute more than $26,600 -- or 1,334 kids coming to see a show at the arts center. Those donations were matched by 8th & Walton and WhyteSpyder, which brought the total raised through Pack the WAC to more than $50,600, Jennifer Wilson, communications director for the Walton Arts Center, tells me.
Waller told donors, "Thank you from the bottom of my heart because I know personally what the arts can do to change somebody's life. And the thought that some kid here in Northwest Arkansas will be changed as a result of coming out for a performance -- you have made that happen."
Masquerade Ball sponsors included General Mills; Procter & Gamble; Walmart; 8th & Walton; Saatchi & Saatchi X; Kellogg's; E & J Gallo Winery; Hershey's; Signature Bank of Arkansas; Coca-Cola; Arkansas Blue Cross Blue Shield; WhyteSpyder; Unilever; McLane; Land O' Lakes; Friday, Eldredge & Clark; 3M; Choctaw Casino & Resort-Pocola; and Celebrate Arkansas.
For more event photos see nwadg.com/photos/society.
Columnist Carin Schoppmeyer can be reached by email at [email protected]