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Friends of the Arts anticipating ‘best ever’ spring fundraiser April 16

An increase in local sponsorships, fast-selling raffle tickets, unique auction items and an authentic Broadway-style experience are providing the right ingredients for Western Carolina University’s Friends of the Arts to have its “best ever” spring fundraiser, said WCU first lady Susan Belcher, chair of the event organizing committee.

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The Saturday, April 16, fundraiser will be focused around the WCU School of Stage and Screen’s production of “Gypsy,” part of its Mainstage theatre season. The event at the John W. Bardo Fine and Performing Arts Center will help provide scholarships and programming for students in the university’s College of Fine and Performing Arts.

“This is our fourth annual fundraiser, and I think the idea of combining a fun benefit evening with a WCU Mainstage musical is catching on,” said Belcher, wife of WCU Chancellor David O. Belcher.

Based on the memoirs of Burlesque queen Gypsy Rose Lee, “Gypsy” brings “a special punch” to the evening with choreography by John Schiacchieti, who danced with Patti Lupone in the Broadway production, and guest direction by Sarah Norris of New York, Belcher said. The large cast, including children from local schools, will be accompanied by a 22-piece live orchestra. The production is rated PG for adult themes.

“Audience members can come as early as 5 p.m., before the 7:30 p.m. curtain, to shop the silent auction, buy some great wine at bargain prices, and take a chance at a raffle that could win them $500 and two season tickets to all the WCU entertainment and sports events for next year,” Belcher said. Refreshments and a cash bar will be available. Admission to the benefit is free, but tickets are required for the performance of “Gypsy.”

“Area merchants and individuals have donated exceptional auction items such as original Cherokee art, a truck load of mulch, Old Edwards and High Hampton golf, overnight stays at the Hilton Biltmore Park and at Sundrops on Caney Fork, and dining and spa certificates,” Belcher said.

“This year’s raffle offers an extraordinary collection of arts, cultural, sporting and one-of-a-kind events that showcase the outstanding work of students at WCU,” she said. “The lucky winner will receive 2016-17 season tickets to more than 20 campus arts and sporting events, chancellor’s box seats at WCU home football games, a faculty-selected student art piece and a $500 cash card for personal use.”

Raffle tickets are $25 each, or five for $100. Raffle winners will be announced at “Gypsy” and tickets can be purchased anytime leading up to the event through the Bardo Arts Center box office at 828-227-2479.

Tickets for “Gypsy,” priced at $25 for adults, $20 for seniors and WCU faculty and staff, and $10 for students, can be purchased through the box office or by visiting foa.wcu.edu.

Top sponsors for the fundraiser, which also includes a sold-out gala dinner, include Entegra Bank, Harrah’s Cherokee Casino Resort and the Ascent Partnership, an initiative involving WCU and Harris Regional Hospital and Swain Community Hospital. They are joined in supporting the effort by Evolution Wine Kitchen, F. Patrick McGuire Dentistry, Baxley’s Chocolates, WCU Catamount Athletics and Carolina West Radiology.

WCU’s Friends of the Arts organization is currently celebrating its fifth year, and since its inception has raised more than $870,000 in support of WCU’s College of Fine and Performing Arts, $87,000 of which was raised at last year’s spring fundraising event. The group hopes to reach the $1 million mark at this year’s spring fundraiser.

Friends of the Arts holds two events per year, including the spring benefit and a fall membership drive concert. The group offers multiple levels of membership for anyone wishing to provide support throughout the year. More information can be found at foa.wcu.edu.

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