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Arts Council kicks off fundraising campaign with song, poetry, champagne

WInston-Salem Journal - By Lynn Felder Winston-Salem Journal Jan 28, 2020

Mary D. Williams, vocalist and Arts Council Wells Fargo Arts-in-Education grantee, encourages the audience to participate in singing with her during the Arts Council of Winston-Salem and Forsyth County’s “2020 Clear Vision” Community Fund for the Arts campaign kickoff event in the Reynolds Place Theatre at the Milton Rhodes Center in downtown Winston-Salem on Monday. Allison Lee Isley/Journal

With a song, a limerick and a champagne toast, the Arts Council of Winston-Salem and Forsyth County kicked off its 2020 fundraising campaign on Monday at the Milton Rhodes Center for the Arts.

Aliza’ Diggs-Bailey, vice president of fundraising, announced that the goal for the “2020 Clear Vision” Community Fund for the Arts campaign would be the same as last year’s — $2.5 million. The arts council missed that goal by $250,000 in 2019.

“We could have aimed lower to guarantee success in reaching it,” said Randy Eaddy, president and chief executive of the arts council. “But that would not be real success. ... Our vibrant and diverse arts constellation needs us to aim high and raise the maximum we can to support the arts, helping them ‘touch every corner’ of our community.”

Out in the Arboreal Gallery, many of the organizations that the arts council supports were present, including the Little Theatre of Winston-Salem and Sawtooth School for Visual Art.

While attendees snacked on heavy hors d’eouvres from The Porch, Jazmine Moore painted the event as it was happening and caricaturist Erik Huffine made quick sketches of the guests for tips. The event was open to the public.

Inside the Reynolds Place Theatre, two recent grant recipients showed the audience some of the talents that their donations support.

Mary D. Williams, a singer and Wells Fargo Arts-in-Education grantee, belted out a “I Wanna Be Ready,” a spiritual that originated in the Bible, endured through slave times and, in the mid-20th century, became a civil-rights anthem.

Then she taught it to the audience, so that they could experience for themselves the unifying power of music.

“We will leave here having had an experience that no one else has had,” Williams said. Then she sang another inspiring song, “Ain’t Nobody Gonna Turn Me Around,” and told how those songs can change from situation to situation to help people in the moment when they need it.

Owens Daniels, a photographer and educator, said he is having a successful career not only because the arts council has funded him but also because it funds many arts organizations that buy and show his work, such as Sawtooth School for Visual Art where he first came to teach in 2005 and Southeastern Center for Contemporary Art where his work has been exhibited.

“Support is more than money,” Daniels said.

Diggs-Bailey said that she had been deeply saddened by the sudden death on Sunday of basketball great, entrepreneur and artist Kobe Bryant.

“I hugged my daughter tighter and shed many a tear as I watched the news stories all through the afternoon,” Diggs-Bailey said. “But then, the Grammys came on, I started to pull myself together. Lizzo performed and dedicated her songs to Kobe, and Billie Eilish performed, and I saw how the world of art is really changing.

“I began to get calmer, and I was reminded of the role the arts play in everyday life. The arts assist us with healing, educate us and bring us joy.”

Common’s spoken word performance reminded her of Winston-Salem’s LB the Poet, and the other fine artists that keep the fire of inspiration and beauty burning right here.

The arts council has six initiatives this year, Diggs-Bailey said: 1) art and healing, 2) art and education, 3) advocacy, 4) entrepreneurship, 5) state-of-the-art facilities and 6) substantial grants for artists and organizations.

Eaddy, a former lawyer who is known for his loquaciousness, artfully distilled his message into a series of limericks for the occasion, including this one:

We all want our City to be great,

To lead and explore and create.

The arts help us attract,

And keep from going back,

The talent we need to innovate.”

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