Feature photo: Shuler Award winners perform at the 2017 ArtsBridge Gala.

ArtsBridge Foundation 2019 Overture Gala

Bringing the arts to more kids

By: Janet Roberts
Kristin Chenoweth, host of An Intimate Evening with Kristin Chenoweth.

Kristin Chenoweth’s popular An Intimate Evening with Kristin Chenoweth is the centerpiece event for the ArtsBridge Foundation’s 2019 Overture Gala on March 29. She’s the right headliner for the role, too, because she’s passionate about funding the arts for young people in her own right. Chenoweth also sponsors the Kristin Chenoweth Arts & Education Fund in her hometown of Broken Arrow, Oklahoma. The recipient of a Tony award for playing Sally in You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown, a Tony nomination for her role as Glinda the Good Witch in Wicked, an Emmy Award for “Pushing Daisies,” and so much more, Chenoweth is often found advocating for arts education and arts opportunities for children. In a 2015 interview with the Washington, D.C. newspaper Metro Weekly, Chenoweth shared her views on raising money to support opportunities for children to experience the arts: “I can tell you that when a kid gets up and sings, or has an art class, or wants to play an instrument, and feels good about themselves … I believe it makes us better people and opens up our minds to creativity in a way we never thought possible. And I also believe it can instill self-esteem — not overconfidence, but self-esteem — in a kid, and that goes  into our adult life, especially when it’s missing at home.” This year’s Overture Gala has a big goal to reach: $200,000. That’s what it takes to support ArtsBridge’s arts education and outreach programs aimed at school-age children from the very young through high school in the Atlanta area and beyond.

Milton High School students whose production of Cabaret! won Best Overall Performance at the 2018 Shuler Awards.

This will be the second gala for the Foundation’s first-ever executive director, Jennifer Dobbs, who has a personal passion for funding arts programs for children, especially those who may not otherwise be offered experiences to explore the arts. “I was one of those kids,” she says. “I grew up in foster homes before I was adopted. Without exposure to the humanities, my life could have gone in a totally different direction. Instead, I’m a living, thriving example of the impact that the arts can have on a child. I can say now that it gave me a very positive path to pursue.” “The arts provide options for children,” she explains. “They open a child’s eyes to personal and professional possibilities they might not see otherwise. You don’t know what you’re capable of until you understand that options for expression exist. The programs we provide are great equalizers because they give everyone an opportunity to experience the arts.” Dobbs sees the program as more impactful than simply helping young people identify their artist talent. “No, not everyone will end up being an artist, a singer, a dancer or an actor,” she says. “But the arts can affect them in different ways. If they go into a STEM (Science Technology Engineering Math) career, the arts can open up their ingenuity, leadership, and innovation abilities that will benefit their careers. There is merit to allowing everyone access to arts education.”

Where does the money go?

Children at Artrageous with usher Marilyn Sustrich.

All proceeds from the Gala will support arts programs and outreach for students of all ages. Here’s a snapshot of what donations will cover in the coming year:

  • Field trips to performances at Cobb Energy Centre, the home of the nonprofit ArtsBridge Foundation: The largest portion of the budget goes to tickets and transportation: $250 to bring one class to the theater; $1,000 for a whole grade; and $5,000 to take a school of 300-350 students to a show.
  • Adopt a School: Executive Director Jennifer Dobbs hopes a special ‘Bid to Give’ event during the Gala dinner will raise $50,000 for outreach to Title 1 schools – those schools with significant numbers of low-income students, as defined by enrollment in the free and reduced lunch program.
  • The Shuler Awards, celebrating excellence in high school musical theatre: Gala proceeds underwrite scholarships, professional-level skills workshops, and the annual musical theatre awards show. Nearly 10,000 high school students across Georgia compete regionally for the event. The top two winning actors head to New York City to compete in the Jimmy Awards.
  • Synergy: ArtsBridge partners with Kennesaw State University’s College of the Arts in a community outreach program that showcases KSU’s arts-related majors. ArtsBridge covers ticket cost and provides a transportation subsidy for high school students.
  • Family programming: ArtsBridge provides tickets and transportation to shows to community organizations like Habitat for Humanity, Girls Inc., and the Boys and Girls Club. Executive Director Jennifer Dobbs describes how many of the receiving families have never been to see a show together, and this program truly reaches into the community and removes the barriers to access.

If you go

The 2019 Overture Gala begins with cocktails at 5:45 p.m. and dinner at 6:15 p.m. in the Kessel D. Stelling Ballroom at Cobb Energy Centre. Special entertainment includes the Shuler Award-winning students of Milton High School. Tickets for the event start at $350 and include cocktails and dinner before the show and a seat for the performance. Premium-level sponsorships include bonuses such as free parking and special recognition. In addition, anyone who buys a Silver, Gold or Platinum Sponsor ticket will be invited to a private meet-and-greet with Chenoweth after the show.

Ticket prices begin at $350 each for dinner and the show, An Intimate Evening with Kristin Chenoweth. Tickets for four 10- seat premium-level sponsorships with special perks were available at press time: Bronze ($1,000), Silver ($3,500), Gold ($5,000) and Platinum ($10,000). For more information, call the ArtsBridge Foundation at 770.916.2805 or visit artsbridgega.org/special-events.

Did you miss out on the Gala? You can still donate to help the Foundation reach more kids. Check it out here!

About Janet Roberts

Janet Roberts, a Green Bay, Wis., based writer, covers the arts, hospitality and business for Encore Atlanta and other publications. She also has a strong interest in the performing arts and not just because she has an actor in the family. You can read her (somewhat dusty) blog at http://contentbyjanetroberts.com/.

View all posts by Janet Roberts