Gala raises money, awareness for arts

Published 10:24 pm Monday, February 25, 2019

With the theme of “Under the Sea,” the Suffolk Education Foundation held its fifth annual gala Friday to celebrate the arts in the city’s public schools.

Held at the Hilton Garden Inn Riverfront and Suffolk Conference Center, the gala packed a room filled with art and song from across the Suffolk Public Schools division.

Patrick Belcher, the foundation’s president, said he didn’t yet know how much the event had raised, but said it was the biggest crowd in the event’s five years and it sold its most tickets ever — about 20 percent more than last year.

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“Those proceeds go directly back to the programs that participate in the gala,” Belcher said, “which is (a) great incentive for those schools and programs that participate.”

Cindy O’Hara, an art teacher at John Yeates Middle School, said the support from the foundation helps supplement money provided by the school division. She said it is good for the public to be able to see the arts’ impact on public education in Suffolk.

“It’s exciting, a lot of fun and a good event,” O’Hara said.

Todd Gidley, a STEM teacher at King’s Fork High School, said education is no longer about just STEM — science, technology, engineering and math — but STEAM, with the “A” standing for art. Gidley noted that engineering has a creative component in it that is fostered through the arts.

“To have a gala that supports the arts, especially with the new art initiative in downtown Suffolk with SPARC (Suffolk’s Premier Art, Retail and Cultural Initiative), it’s huge,” Gidley said.

Nansemond River High School students Amaya Wills and Noah Fisher were the emcees for the event, and the following performed:

  • Oakland Elementary School Ukulele Ensemble
  • John Yeates Middle School Chorus
  • John Yeates Middle School Band
  • John F. Kennedy Middle School Chorus
  • King’s Fork High School Chorus
  • Nansemond River High School Elite Voices
  • King’s Fork Middle School Eighth Grade Chorus

Throughout the evening, the Gala House Orchestra, made up of students from Nansemond River and Lakeland high schools, also performed.

“Art really does enhance learning,” Belcher said. “From preschool songs to modern drama, art and chorus, learning truly is better thanks to the arts.”