By Dottie Ashley

A “silver anniversary” event celebrating the 25th year of the founding of the College of Charleston’s School of the Arts will inaugurate the new Gaillard Center’s grand ballroom on October 10.


Guests will dance the night away to the Joe Clarke Orchestra, savor a gourmet spread, sip their favorite libation at an open bar and bid in silent and live auctions for items and opportunities ranging from exotic vacations to original works of art to wearable textiles, with proceeds going toward scholarships and programs presented by the school.

The event will take place only one day after Mayor Joe Riley will have presided over the Gaillard Center’s ribbon-cutting, signaling the official opening of what several knowledgeable sources have pronounced to be one of the top edifices of its type in the United States.

“We are thrilled and honored that the Gaillard staff has graciously welcomed the School of the Arts to become the very first evening event to be held in the new Gaillard Center and we are aware that this possibility became a reality, largely due to the efforts of enthusiastic volunteers to whom we are truly appreciative,” said Valerie Morris, dean of the School of the Arts. Especially involved in making the evening a glittering experience are the co-chairs of the event Eve Berlinsky and Cathy Marino.

“There will be no long speeches,” promises Berlinsky, who says Morris will welcome everyone via video, followed by the showing of brief videos of each department in The School of the Arts and illustrations of the various subjects taught.

Berlinsky emphasized that although people will dine at tables that they will not be assigned to the same table all evening. “We have no place cards on the tables and so people will be able to go around to the many different food stations and then choose the tables where they might like to sit, for a short or longer time, doesn’t matter,” she adds. “What matters is to have a great time for a terrific cause that affects our future and that is to provide money for scholarships for young people who need it and who then also may pass on the love and importance of the arts to future generations.”

However, the main aspect of the affair according to Berlinsky is that she wants people to truly enjoy dancing to a 19-piece orchestra. “So few places have music or the space ideal for dancing,” says the frequent volunteer for arts-related events. “The dress for the evening is cocktail attire, but that doesn’t mean you can’t wear shoes for dancing, so keep that in mind!”

The School of the Arts (SOTA) includes the departments of theatre and dance, music, studio arts and art history. Also, firmly in the realm of creating multiple types of visual art is SOTA’s extremely active Halsey Institute of Contemporary Art (HICA). Another factor that has strengthened the school’s role in the community is the arts management program, which involves the faculty across SOTA’s various disciplines taking part in the execution of numerous projects that celebrate and highlight our area’s diverse heritage, according to Morris.

2015 Verner Award

The anniversary celebration marks the second time SOTA has been given an outstanding reason to celebrate during this year.

In May the South Carolina Arts Commission selected The College of Charleston’s School of the Arts as one of the recipients of South Carolina’s highest cultural honors — the Elizabeth O’Neill Verner Governor’s Award for the Arts. It was presented to Dean Valerie Morris in a ceremony honoring the winners at the statehouse in Columbia.

Although the Verner Award is given in several different arts-related fields, Morris noted “It is such an honor for our school to be recognized for its dedicated artist-scholars, its tremendous academic programming and its extensive community outreach, including taking part in community partnerships and cultural events.” The dean added, “As we celebrate the school’s 25th anniversary, the Verner Award is a testament to the positive growth and direction that we’ve strived, through the years, to now be considered one of the fastest growing arts schools in the nation, something that is extremely important in a city known for its cultural heritage.”

The award is named for the celebrated artist Elizabeth O’Neill Verner, who in the early part of the 20th century was one of the first major female artists in Charleston who was forced to mainly support her family through her prolific output of paintings and distinctive etchings, which she sold from her downtown gallery.

Tickets for the gala, to take place from 7 p.m.-10:30 p.m. at the Gaillard Center ballroom, 77 Calhoun St., on October 10, are $150 a person. To reserve, please call 953-6315.

Dottie Ashley, arts columnist for the Charleston Mercury, served for many years as arts writer and critic for the state’s two largest newspapers. She was winner of the 2003 Elizabeth O’Neill Verner Award and twice a recipient of a Dance Critics Fellowship to the American Dance Festival.

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