When Nick Warrington became director of events and community engagement for the Wright State University College of Liberal Arts in September 2019, he had high hopes for the first ArtsGala that he would help plan for 2020. Warrington and ArtsGala co-chairs David and Nancy Smith were eager to increase attendance, expand the audience, and provide new experiences for patrons at the annual scholarship fundraiser for Wright State students in the fine and performing arts.
“We had a lot of grand plans for this year’s ArtsGala,” said Warrington. “Obviously, none of that was able to happen.”
When ArtsGala 2020 was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Warrington and the ArtsGala host committee had to quickly shift gears and create a new concept for the annual fundraiser. It was paramount to Warrington and the host committee that while the show would not go on, the support for Wright State students would continue.
To raise critical scholarship dollars for students in the fine and performing arts, the committee decided to launch ArtsUNgala, a crowdfunding campaign that ran from March 26 to April 15. Donors could make gifts online to support the ArtsGala scholarship fund.
In addition to the $6,365 raised via the crowdfunding campaign, 75 percent of patrons who had already purchased tickets to the event donated all or a portion of their tickets to the scholarship fund, generating $26,950. ArtsGala sponsors provided an additional $138,800 in support.
Once non-refundable expenses are taken out, Warrington expects that $150,000 will be available for student scholarships in the Department of Art and Art History, the School of Music and the Department of Theatre, Dance and Motion Pictures.
“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,” said Warrington.
Warrington is very pleased with the results of ArtsUNgala, especially 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.
“Because of the generosity of everyone — sponsors, patrons, community members, faculty and staff — our students are going to be okay,” he said. “Each of the departments are going to have a similar amount of funds to give in scholarship dollars for the next academic year.”
There is still one more opportunity to raise funds for ArtsUNgala. Each year, two pieces of student artwork are selected by the ArtsGala 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 “A Clearing Ahead” by William Worley and “Mist Bowl” by Eric Denlinger, visit frontstreet.art/collections/wright-state-university-artsgala.
While there is still much uncertainty about the impact of COVID-19 on future events, Warrington and the ArtsGala host committee are moving forward with plans for 2021. As they begin to have conversations about next year’s event, honoring the class of 2020 will be a top priority.
“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.”