GALLIPOLIS — Gallipolis may be hundreds of miles away from the bustling Mardi Gras party in New Orleans, but over the weekend, the French Art Colony (FAC) and its many supporters threw quite a bash in an effort to entertain residents from far and wide while raising money to fund arts programs and exhibits.
Saturday marked the FAC’s second annual Mardi Gras Night, held at the Gallipolis Elks Lodge on Second Ave., and according to FAC Executive Director Joseph Wright this year’s event enjoyed even more popularity and success than its debut.
The FAC has held a silent auction fundraiser for several years at its site on First Ave., but after discussing ways to increase attendance and boost participation, the organizational leadership moved forward with a theme fitting of the French City.
“Mardi Gras Night developed from a discussion in late 2011, in preparation for our 2012 silent auction fundraiser. Many themes were discussed, but when ‘Mardi Gras’ was suggested, we all agreed it fit,” said Wright. “The theme went well with our French heritage, and the timing of our fundraising event is near the traditional Mardi Gras celebrations. The theme is a good one for us, and one we plan to continue.”
Non-profit agencies like the FAC have faced significant cuts in funding over the course of the past few years, which makes fundraisers like Mardi Gras Night important to the viability of community programs like those provided by the FAC.
“Recent years have seen dramatic federal and state funding cuts to non-profit arts agencies, such as the French Art Colony. For example, our funding from The Ohio Arts Council steadily decreased for a number of years, even though our projects and services continue to expand, and our number of people served continued to grow,” explained Wright. “This year, however, we did see a small increase in funding from the Ohio Arts Council. That said, however, the funding will cover less than [five percent] of our conservative annual budget.”
According to Wright, that makes private fundraising efforts that much more important.
“We were so fortunate this year to have significant community support in both donations and participation. In addition to support from the Gallipolis Elks Lodge, Gallipolis Junior Women’s Club and from State Representative Ryan Smith and Hilliard Lyons to help cover costs of producing the event, the French Art Colony offered a little more than 100 bid items in our silent auction. Although the final numbers are still being totaled, it looks as though this year’s event will be as successful, and likely more so, than last year.”
Business owners, community leaders and residents from all over the Ohio Valley donated items for the FAC silent auction totaling a retail value of more than $20,000. Last year, the silent auction raised approximately $11,000, and although the group is still finalizing totals, Wright believes this year’s auction may surpass last year’s numbers.
In the end, Wright emphasized that the FAC and all of its endeavors aim to support our communities.
“I definitely enjoy my job, but I certainly don’t do it alone. A substantial team of volunteers and an amazing Board of Trustees, who are also volunteers, made Mardi Gras Night happen, and they worked very, very hard, dedicating hours of service to the success of the event,” said Wright. “The great thing about our bigger events, such as Mardi Gras Night, our theatre productions, Second Friday, and others is bringing the community together in a creative environment to simply enjoy themselves. Helping people have fun is an honor. Having so many folks come out and enjoy our events is inspiring. The support lets me know that what we do at the French Art Colony matters to the community.
Wright said there are many people to thank for donating time, treasure and talent to the French Art Colony’s Mardi Gras Night, including Event Chair Paula Williams-Wray, FAC Board Member Beverly Walker and Becky Sundquist for coordinating silent auction donations and sponsorships; FAC Board Member Joyce Anderson for coordinating the food committee; FAC Board Members Joella Marxen and Jan Haddox; and Kem Bosma, for designing the specialty decorations for food tables and display.
The French Art Colony is in constant need of volunteers. Those interested in learning more about participating in this fun and exciting organization should call the FAC at 740-446-3834.