Lynchburg's Local Arts Center
Written by: Izzi Diaz
Live! From Lynchburg … it’s Saturday night! Each year, the Academy Center of the Arts hosts our annual fundraising Gala. This event serves as a way for donors and community members to connect back to the Academy’s mission, experience local, regional, and national touring performances, and to donate to programs and outreach initiatives of the Academy Center of the Arts. This year, plans for our Gala pivoted as a result of the Coronavirus pandemic. But, the show must go on, and thus Live! From Lynchburg was born.
The event, usually hosted in-person at our venues, was moved completely online, complete with three hours of programmatic content live-streamed straight from the Historic Academy Theatre stage. Viewers from all over were invited to the virtual showing that showcased a diversity of Lynchburg’s performers, artists, patrons, and more! Viewers were given the opportunity to feel as though they were in the room, back in one of the Academy’s signature red cushion seats, experiencing a night full of arts and cultural activities.
“First and foremost, it was a celebration of artists in the greater Lynchburg area, showcasing a diversity of talent that is unique to our community,” says Dabney Treacy, Director of Development, “With the event being live-streamed as well as having a limited live studio audience in the beautiful historic theatre, it was a joyous celebration of live performance for performers, patrons, and viewers alike. Finally, the generous support of this fundraiser will allow the Academy to continue to sustain our operations and fulfill our mission of serving as the center of arts and culture in the Lynchburg community.”
Cavalier Theatre’s Spence and Niki White were the hosts for the evening, bringing excitement to the stage that so many of us have missed the past few months. There was a spectacular lineup of performers who showcased their art, including musicians, theatrical performers, poets, and even an Elvis tribute artist!. Along with the performers, interviewees had the chance to discuss what the Academy is as well as what it means to them. Community activist, artist, business owner, and past Lottie Payne Stratton Award winner Michelline Hall stated in her interview, “the Academy is like an extension of my own family.”
Patrons at home and in our limited (socially distanced) live audience were given the opportunity to give various amounts throughout the night to benefit both our operational needs of the organization and our Education Access Program. This program allows new and returning students of varying ages, backgrounds, and socio-economic standing to gain access to our educational activities with the assistance of tuition discounts at various levels.
The fundraising goal for the evening was set at $20,000 dollars. Thanks to our donors and supporters, we are overjoyed to announce that we surpassed the goal, raising $30,000 in support of arts and cultural activities in the Greater Lynchburg Area.
“The evening was not just a fundraiser but also a celebration of our diverse and rich local arts community, and the Academy is the home to a number of area partner organizations and artists,” says Executive Director, Geoff Kershner, “The highlight of the night was the Academy reconnecting with so many artists and arts organizations while also connecting these artists with an audience. A great loss in this pandemic is the connection of the live arts to audiences. To have that back for a night was magical.”
The theme of the evening was hope. Any employee, guest, performer, or viewer would tell you the same thing – Live! From Lynchburg was a night filled with joy. The much-needed overflow of laughter and light within those few hours made up for the many months spent watching the world from a window indoors. The appreciation just to be there from those in the room was palpable within the theatre, smiles under masks, and air hugs from a distance.
“We all have been reminded of the indelible need for community, the need for art, the need for each other,” said Brittany Griffith, Director of Programming. “No pandemic or divided nation can change that, and this event was a crucial step in remembering such. Both hope and art are still very much alive, especially here in Lynchburg, and they are here to stay.”
Click on the link below to watch Live! From Lynchburg in its entirety: