Arts Ball proceeds to support school cultural programs

With a goal of raising $35,000, the Surry Arts Council has announced all proceeds from its annual arts ball will be used to provide free cultural arts programs for schools in Surry County.

The ball has been scheduled for Feb. 27 at Cross Creek Country Club. This event will include a silent auction, a seated dinner and live music by the Band of Oz. Preview bidding opens at noon and is open to all participants.

The 2014 event, under the leadership of Julie Adams, raised a record $34,000 for school programs with more than 200 attending and around 400 items auctioned. Sonia Dickerson serves as liaison for the Surry County Schools and Carrie Venable serves as liaison for the Mount Airy City Schools and Greg McCormick represents Millennium Charter Academy.

All of the schools traditionally participate with both donations and attendance. Surry Arts Council Board members, school personnel, and dozens of volunteers work to organize the event, sell tickets, and insure the arts remain a part of our area school programming.

According to council spokesperson Melissa Sumner, in addition to directly paying for arts programs, the arts ball leverages grants including a cARTwheels grant from the North Carolina Arts Council that funded a six day residency with artist Mike Wiley, who hosted a teacher workshop prior to the residency.

Wiley’s residency included four school presentations reaching 2,500 students in addition to 16 workshops in Mount Airy City Schools, Surry County Schools, and Millennium Charter Academy which reached hundreds of other students.

In addition, a South Arts Grant will be matched by Arts Ball funds and support a week long residency with the Savoy Family Cajun Band from Eunice, Louisiana. The band will visit all of the middle schools and present both concerts and workshops. Recently, 15 presentations of an anti-bullying show “The Pirates of Bully Bay” were hosted in all elementary schools.

Local musician Jim Vipperman is taking dozens of guitars and fiddles to Cedar Ridge and White Plains Elementary Schools and to Jones Intermediate School as part of the Traditional Arts Programs (TAPS) grant that funds an introduction to playing these instruments.

Sumner said hundreds of students are reached with hands-on learning through this program. Vipperman is a Brown-Hudson Folklore Society Award winner for teaching excellence and passing on our music heritage. He spends six weeks in schools introducing third-fifth grade students to fiddles, guitars, and area music. Students are then able to attend the weekly free year-round lessons at the Historic Earle Theatre every Thursday evening at 5:30 p.m. and 6:15 p.m.

Arts programs funded by the Arts Ball facilitate more than 25,000 student contacts. It is the arts council’s goal to send at least one program to each school in the Surry County School system, the Mount Airy City School system and Millennium Charter Academy. Most schools receive two or three programs. Each of the 12,000 students in the schools is also bused to one or more programs at the Andy Griffith Playhouse, the Historic Earle Theatre, or the Blackmon Amphitheatre.

Hundreds of students visit the Andy Griffith Museum, the Old-Time Music Heritage Hall, and the Siamese Twins Exhibit at no cost. Ally Coe, a Surry County School teacher, worked with the Surry Arts Council to develop a Surry County Musical Heritage Tour of the Old-Time Music Heritage Hall at the Historic Earle Theatre that connects with curriculum content in the first through the eighth grades. This effort was funded in part by a grant from the Blue Ridge National Heritage Area.

Other arts programs include outdoor concerts in the spring with the John Brown Jazz Band for more than 3,000 school students. These concerts will be held at the Blackmon Amphitheatre on Monday April 27. Other programs include TheatreWorks USA’s Click Clack Moo and their production of Junie B. Jones. ArtsPower’s production of Rainbow Fish for all K-2 students and Laura Ingalls Wilder for all fourth and fifth grade students.

The University of North Carolina School of the Arts opera “Pinnochio” will be performed. Barter Theater’s touring performance of Julius Caesar is also on the docket to be performed for high school students. Free movies at the Historic Earle Theatre are offered monthly for students with several thousand additional students attending those as part of incentive programs. There is also a separate program of dance, drama and craft programs for exceptional students. These are funded in part by the Arts Ball and in part by the United Fund of Surry.

In addition to arts programs, the Surry Arts Council hosts numerous holiday and year end band and choral concerts, school plays performed by students, graduation exercises, and music workshops.

The cost of attending the Arts Ball is $75 per person. This includes a seated meal in addition to the entertainment. The event is open to the public. For further information or tickets, persons may contact the Surry Arts Council at 336-786-7998 or email