The Arts Are Alive!

Bowie State University Hosts Opening Event with First Annual Arts Gala Awards

It was no surprise that the First Annual Arts Gala was an outstanding success. Over a year of planning went into the Nov. 17 black tie event and there were simply too many quality people of merit from Bowie State University, the Prince George’s Arts and Humanities Council, and the county for it to be anything less than a complete success.

The anticipated awe that audiences expected to enjoy in touring the new facility came to pass. The $71 million, 123,000 square foot performing art center, which was 20 years in the making, is—as advertised—one of the most impressive, high end arts institutions in the region [See “First Look: The New Bowie State University Performing Arts Center,” in Prince George’s Suite magazine, Summer 2012 edition. Click here to order]. The event was a polished, multidimensional production that included an art auction, viewing of art and photography, a gallery show, video interviews, an arts awards presentation, and exquisite musical performances by top local and national artists [view more photos from the gala here].

“We wanted people to experience the fine arts center, not just come to it,” says Executive Director of the Prince Arts and Humanities Council Rhonda Dallas. “This was intended to be more than just something to come and see. It was planned to be an experience.”

Still, all this was not what was surprising. It was expected. [See “BSU Performing Arts: A New Level of Excellence,” SuiteTV]

What was surprising was the reach and depth of the talent and personalities in attendance that got attention and turned heads.

Artists such as Diane Schuur, violinist Ashanti Floyd and pianist Cyrus Chestnut, and Jacquie Gales Webb graced the stage on the center’s premiere night, giving it a stellar launch. Few expected such star studded national talent. Further, the audience was comprised of state and local leaders, affluent business executives and the area’s top art and cultural trendsetters including County Executive Rushern L. Baker III, Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown, Del. Jolene Ivey, Sen. Joanne Benson, Mike Little (of B&W Solutions), the African American Museum and Cultural Center’s Jacqueline Brown, Maryland National Capital Park and Planning’s Wanda Ramos, and the Clarice Smith Performing Arts Center’s Jane Hirshberg. These were just a few of the nearly 400 who turned out for the red-carpet night.

In all, the night was one of the best events of the year in the county. It brought together the celebration of the Prince George’s Arts & Humanities Council’s 30th anniversary with the grand opening of BSU’s new arts center in great form. It introduced the center to the region as a new destination for the arts that will be on par with Wolf Trap, Blues Alley, and Clarice Smith. And as national and international names such as Chestnut, Shuur and Floyd appear here, they will become magnets for arts students and intellectuals to gravitate to the county.

“This is what we mean by recognizing the arts as a revenue stream, as part of economic development,” Dallas says. “When you make things happen on this kind of scale with major artists it sets up the opportunity for our county to be recognized as an arts destination. We are bringing these international resources the county.”

Dallas went on to say that there is more to come. In addition to the initial plans for the second annual gala, there is also an interest in bringing national artists to the university to teach master classes.

“[The audience] fell in love with Ashanti Floyd (also known as the Mad Violinist). He wants to come back and do master classes, we want a master class program with this master talent. We will definitely develop that.”  

Photos: Damita Chambers