SEF cancels annual gala

Published 7:39 pm Thursday, May 13, 2021

The Suffolk Education Foundation has canceled its 2021 Gala to Support the Arts in Suffolk Public Schools in any format – in-person or virtual. The event was originally set for later this month.

This decision was directly impacted by continued COVID-19 restrictions and the school division’s hybrid learning schedule.

The foundation has sponsored the night-out-on-the-town event since 2015, featuring displays of student artists from every school and musical performances by selected middle and high school students. Gala proceeds are returned to the participating student groups, more than $37,000 over that time. In 2020, the SEF Gala pivoted to a live virtual event since students were already preparing for the in-person show.

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“Despite a gala-less May 2021, the Foundation recognizes the value the event brings to support the arts in our schools and to build community awareness of the city’s talented young musicians and artists,” said Patrick L. Belcher, foundation president, in a statement. “We also know the significant impact that art and music education have on learning.”

For this reason, the foundation will use its own resources to support every arts program in Suffolk Public Schools with a contribution of more than $11,000 before the 2020-2021 school year ends. Every fine arts program — a total of 57 throughout the city’s elementary, middle and high schools — will receive money. This support is inclusive of visual arts, music, chorus, band, orchestra and theater.

“We do this in hopes that the arts will know they are a vital aspect of K-12 education in Suffolk Public Schools and that we will be able to celebrate at our 2022 gala,” Belcher said. “It’s only through the regular support we get from the community that we are able to provide These awards to cheer on all our student thespians, musicians and artists.”

For more information about the foundation, visit