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Le Grand Bal celebrates the arts at LU March 19

“Rhapsody in LU” will honor the fine arts at Lamar University onSaturday, March 19, 2011, when Lamar’s Friends of the Arts present Le Grand Bal, a gala evening of art, fine dining, dancing and entertainment.Le Grand Bal is the major annual fundraiser for the College of Fine Arts and Communication.

Michele and Mitchell Smith are chairing the 2011 event.Activities include a reception and silent art auction from 7 to 9 p.m. in the Dishman Art Museum and a gourmet buffet, dancing and entertainment from 8 p.m. to midnight in the Montagne Center.

“‘Rhapsody in LU’ is a play on the George Gershwin song ‘Rhapsody in Blue,’” said Michele.“‘Rhapsody’ means an exalted or excessively enthusiastic expression of feeling in speech or writing. We thought it was a perfect description for the night, which we want to be a celebration of all the fine arts, such as theatre, classic art, dance, and music.”

Le Grand Bal provides valuable support to the College of Fine Arts and Communication.Funds generated by theBalenable the Friends of the Arts to support scholarships and educational enhancements such as master classes, visiting artists and trips to clinics and workshops that expand learning opportunities for students and add to faculty members’ academic credentials.The funds provide faculty enrichment and enable students to expand their horizons.

The Smiths are avid arts supporters and both have served on the Friends of the Arts board at Lamar.Michele, an attorney with Mehaffy Weber, graduated Lamar with a Bachelor of Business Administration degree in accounting.She received her Juris Doctorate from Baylor University School of Law.Mitchellgraduated with a Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of Texas and a Juris Doctorate from Baylor. He is an attorney with Germer Gertz in Beaumont.In addition to their work with the Friends of the Arts, Michele has also served on the board of the Symphony of Southeast Texas, and Mitchell is current president of the Art Museum of Southeast Texas board of trustees.

“We believe strongly that fine arts are important personally and in the community, so we were happy to support Lamar University in this endeavor,” said Michele.

“Mitch and Michele stepped in to chair Le Grand Bal and have approached the job with the greatest energy and excitement,” said Russ Schultz, dean of the College of Fine Arts and Communication.“Once this year’s honorees were put forth and accepted, there was no holding them back.”

Each year, Le Grand Bal committee selects an influential person or couple to honor for their service to the university.This year, “Rhapsody in LU” will honor Judy and James Black of Beaumont.

“Judy and James Black have made significant contributions in the area of the arts,” said Michele.“They were a natural choice.They are people who have done a lot for the community, for Lamar, and for the arts in particular, and we wanted to honor that.”

Judy Black is a member of the College of Fine Arts and Communication Advisory Council and a past president of the board of trustees for the Art Museum of Southeast Texas.James is an attorney and executive director of Wilton and Effie Mae Hebert Foundation.

“These are two wonderful, caring people of the community whose longtime passion for the arts has greatly benefited Southeast Texas and Lamar over the years,” said Schultz.

Entertainment at the Bal, from 8 p.m. to midnight, will be provided by Houston-based The Works and by The Night & Day Orchestra, under the direction of Wayne Dyess, professor of music at Lamar.

Guests will dine on a lavish feast prepared under the direction of Ricardo Saldana, executive chef for Chartwells, the Lamar catering service.Dishes include carved prime rib with horseradish sauce, theever-popular jumbo boiled shrimp accompanied with spicyremoulade or cocktail sauce, sushi,chicken tetrazzini,bacon-wrapped apricots, romaine salad with blueberries and walnuts, crisp lavash bread and rolls, and an assortment of desserts including chocolate truffles, mini-fruit tarts, and mini-brownies.

In addition to dining and dancing, guests will have the opportunity to bid on original artwork at the silent auction from 7 – 9 p.m. at the Dishman Art Museum.The art auction features more than 200 works by students, faculty and alumni – a diverse range of original painting, drawing, print-making, photography, ceramics and jewelry.

The Friends of the Arts organized in 1973 under the leadership of then-Dean Brock Brentlinger and staged its first Bal in 1975. The event continued with Jimmy Simmons at the helm when he was dean of the college. The event has raised millions of dollars for Lamar.Over the years, Lamar talents have shared the spotlight with nationally known entertainment headliners such as Cab Calloway, Jack Jones, Helen O’Connell, Jack Sheldon and Joe Williams. Activities, decor, entertainment and the overall evening are designed to reflect the talents of Lamar art, theater, music, dance and communication students.

In addition to the Smiths, event committee members for “Rhapsody in LU” include Tammy and Tootsie Crutchfield, atmosphere; Frani Broussard, Sandra Clark, and David L. Red, food; Melanie Dishman, invitations; Sharon Forret, publicity; Albert Nolen, reservations; and Pat Avery, Gillian and Will Jenkins, Joellyn and Donald Jowers, and Elizabeth and Russ Waddill, underwriting.

Le Grand Bal has run the gamut of motifs over the years, including “Patriotic/1776" (1976), “European Elegance” (1978), “Las Vegas” (1980), “Roman Holiday” (1982), “Mexican Fiesta” (1983), “Old Vienna” (1984),“Court of Louis XIV/Palace of Versailles” (1985), “Texas Sesquicentennial Garden Party” (1986); “Le Jazz Hot” (1987), “Under the Big Top” (1988) and “New York, New York” (1989).

Recent themes include “A Night in Casablanca” (2010), honoring the Renaissance of Lamar University; “Red and White Le Grand Bal” (2009), honoring Jo and Tommy Vance; “Renaissance of the Arts” (2008), honoring Gay and Bill Scott; “Treasures of the Gulf Coast” (2007), honoring Sheila and Walter Umphrey; “A Toast to the Arts” (2006), honoring Frank Messina; “Passport to the Arts” (2005), honoring Judy and George Dishman; “Spring into the Arts” (2004), honoring Nell McCallum Morris; “Viva Las Victor” (2003), honoring Vic Rogers; “King of the Road” (2002), honoring Jerry Reese; “2001: An Art Odyssey” (2001), honoring Lamar President Jimmy Simmons; and “76 Trombones” (2000), honoring those who have supported the arts at Lamar.

“The Bal is a great evening from the time we open the doors at the Dishman and bid on beautiful artwork to the last dance in the Montagne Center,” said Schultz. “It’s a wonderful event to bring your loved ones to and create a memorable night together.”

Tickets are $150 per person or $300 per couple, with underwriting opportunities available at levels ranging from $750 to $10,000. For additional information or reservations, call the Lamar University College of Fine Arts and Communication, (409) 880-8137.