ArtsGala scholarships provide career launching pad for budding artists

ArtsGala patrons were treated to numerous live performances throughout the night, including a trio of mimes. Photo by Andrew Smith.

Andrew Smith, Sports Editor
April 16, 2014
Filed under Arts & Entertainment, Top Stories, Wright Life

Next month, senior acting and musical theater major Jon Hacker will pack his bags and leave Dayton, Ohio for the bright lights of Broadway and New York City.

Hacker said he has been invited to final callbacks for the Tony Award-winning musical “Newsies”, which will begin a national tour this fall that will cover 25 cities over 43 weeks.

Such a transition is often associated with a hefty price, and because of Hacker’s ArtsGala scholarship, awarded by Barnes & Noble, it is a price he can now afford.

“Basically, I was paying my way through college during my first few years and once these gracious scholarships came my way, they just helped me immensely start a life, because I want to move to New York eventually,” Hacker said. “Every little bit helps all of us and it just helps us with our craft and we couldn’t be more thankful.”

Acting, singing and dancing was not Hacker’s first passion. At Edgewood High School in Trenton, Ohio, Hacker played strong safety for the Cougars. After some urging from his friends, Hacker dove headfirst into the school’s theater department, trading the gridiron for the stage.

After spending a year at Miami University in Oxford, Hacker came to Wright State, where he said the faculty became “like family” to him.

Hacker represents one of several fine and performing arts students whose career aspirations have received a financial boost from an ArtsGala scholarship. The money that funds the scholarships comes from the ArtsGala event itself, which celebrated its 15th year  Saturday evening at WSU’s Creative Arts Center.

Wright State College of Liberal Arts Dean Kristin Sobolik said ArtsGala began as a quaint, yet important event, and has transformed into a must-see attraction for the Dayton community.

“It started small, but impactful, I would say, because it has grown ever since,” Sobolik said. “This year we’re going to have a record-breaking year with over 700 people here, which is over 60 more than what we had for last year’s record-breaking year. And all that means more scholarship money for our students.”

Since its inception, ArtsGala has raised over $1.6 million in student scholarships. The black tie-optional affair annually rolls out a literal red carpet to its guests, featuring premium alcohol and food options, complimentary portraits and a silent auction that allows patrons to bid on items ranging in price from around $50 to over $1,000.

New events at this year’s ArtsGala included a wine and bourbon tasting, a cigar and sports tent and an experimental gallery, where guests sampled martinis and observed sculptures being made.

ArtsGala guests were also treated to shortened versions of “Les Miserables,” Mozart’s “Magic Flute” and “Saturday Night Fever”. Other rooms inside the Creative Arts Building featured jazz musicians and vocalists.

“These are students that are college students, but their talent is remarkable. They’re the next generation of performing artists for our region, for our state and for our country. The arts are so important for economic development, because when people want to come here, they want to have access to the arts to really have a quality of life,” WSU President David Hopkins said. “We can’t ignore how important the arts are.”

Sobolik said ArtsGala helps sell the university and its arts program to prospective students and employees.

“It’s a great marketing tool, in the sense that it really illustrates the positive impact students have on Wright State, but also the support that Wright State and the community provides for students,” Sobolik said.

Though Hacker aspires to one day have his name appear in a New York City playbill, he notes that his professional journey–from community theater actor to Broadway hopeful–was helped made possible by his ArtsGala scholarship.

“The craft is [such that] you take what you can get and you try to find where the work is and fulfilling yourself artistically. But you sometimes have to find where the money is. We all need some help, one way or another, and the scholarships just help us get better at our craft, be here at school, be here at class every day and helps us save money,” Hacker said.

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