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Elegant Le Grand Bal celebrates An Evening of Art

Le Grand Bal

Elegance and sophistication will be the hallmarks of the night as Lamar University celebrates the party of the year with Le Grand Bal: "An Evening of Art," on Saturday, March 22.

The gala evening features a silent art auction and reception in the Dishman Art Museum, followed by a gourmet buffet, dancing and entertainment in the Montagne Center. Presented by Lamar’s Friends of the Arts, it is the major annual fundraiser for the College of Fine Arts and Communication.

This year’s event honors Mary Jane Garth of Beaumont, a beloved patron of the arts, for her myriad contributions to Lamar University and the Southeast Texas community.

“Mary Jane is a very special member of the community,” said Russ Schultz, dean of the College of Fine Arts and Communication. “She recognizes the importance of art to quality of life, and then through her actions and service, puts her love of art to work in the community to make Beaumont a much better place. While she is the honoree for this Le Grand Bal, it is Lamar University and the Beaumont community who are honored to have her.”

Originally from Houston, Garth moved to Beaumont after marrying Tyrrell Garth. In 1966, she relocated with her family to Aspen, Colo., where she lived for more than 40 years on the Aspen Valley Ranch, which she owned and managed. She subsequently became a founding member of the Anderson Ranch Art Center, president of the Aspen Art Museum and a supporter of the Aspen Music Festival and the Aspen Santa Fe Ballet. Garth was also a significant supporter and commercial dealer of the arts in Aspen and New York City for many years. She has traveled the world searching for special works of art and has accumulated an outstanding collection of international modern and pop art.

Garth returned to Beaumont a few years ago, and her entrepreneurial spirit has inspired her to continue to give many volunteer hours to the community, along with her generous charitable support of many deserving organizations, including the Art Museum of Southeast Texas and the Symphony of Southeast Texas. She has also endowed a scholarship at Lamar that continues this spirit of cultural enrichment. The Mary Jane Garth Regents’ Scholarship benefits undergraduates majoring in music or art at Lamar.

Sandy and Joseph Fertitta are co-chairs of this year’s Bal. Both are very active in Lamar’s Friends of the Arts. Joseph is executive vice president of Texas Coffee Co., which makes and distributes Seaport Coffee and the TexJoy line of seasonings. The Texas Coffee Co. was founded in 1921 and is still family owned and operated.

“From the moment that Sandy and Joseph accepted the role of chairs, they literally hit the ground running,” said Schultz. “Sandy is one of the most organized people I know, and she has gotten so many committee members involved in the Bal. It will be one of our most successful events to date.”

Le Grand Bal provides valuable support for the College of Fine Arts and Communication. Funds generated by the Bal enable the Friends of the Arts to contribute to 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 theme of this year’s Bal was an easy decision for committee members.

“We’re honoring Mary Jane Garth, and that is what she is all about,” said Sandy. “It’s going to be all about her and things she likes. She’s just so full of life and she shares so much with Lamar and the community. She’s always willing to give and do. It’s a tribute to her.”

“An Evening of Art” begins with a silent auction and reception at the Dishman Art Museum. Guests will have the opportunity to bid on original artwork at the auction from 7 - 9 p.m. The art auction features more than 200 works by students, faculty, alumni and special friends of Lamar – a diverse range of original paintings, drawings, prints, photographs, ceramics and jewelry.

The entertainment at the Bal, from 8 p.m. to midnight, will be provided by Johnny Dee & the Rocket 88s, a popular oldies band from Austin, and Beaumont’s own Night & Day Orchestra.

Guests will dine on a sumptuous feast prepared under the direction of Ricardo Saldana, executive chef for Chartwells, the Lamar catering service. Main dishes include coq au vin, a classic French dish of chicken cooked in red wine; carved prime rib of beef au jus with creamy horseradish sauce; and the ever-popular jumbo boiled shrimp accompanied with spicy remoulade or cocktail sauce. This year there will be a sushi station with California, Philadelphia and crunch rolls prepared in front of the guests.

Sides include asparagus, oven-roasted vegetables, herbed roasted red potatoes, French petit rolls, Hawaiian rolls and croissants with butter. The decadent dessert bar will have mocha pots de crème, assorted fruit trifles and coconut macaroon cookies.

The Friends of the Arts organized in 1973 and staged its first Bal in 1975. The event has raised millions of dollars for Lamar. Over the years, Lamar talents have shared the spotlight with nationally known entertainment headliners. 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 chairpersons Sandy and Joseph Fertitta, other committee chairs for “An Evening of Art” include Lynda Moncla and Melissa Edwards, atmosphere; Megan Young, art auction and exhibition; Patti and Floyd McSpadden, food; Allison Getz and Tammy Hebert, invitations; Sharon Forret, publicity; and Albert Nolen, reservations.

This year’s underwriting committee includes Mandie and Dr. Garrett Peel, Becky and Chuck Mason, Kim and Roy Steinhagen, W.L. Pate, Nell McCallum and Dr. Terry Morris, Sandra Clark, Michele and Mitch Smith, Dean Terrebonne and Rusty Chimeno.

Le Grand Bal has run the gamut of motifs over the years. Recent themes include “Cardinal Express” (2013), honoring Sallye Keith; “Some Enchanted Evening” (2012), honoring Chuck and Becky Mason; “Rhapsody in LU” (2011), honoring Judy and James Black; “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; and “Viva Las Victor” (2003), honoring Vic Rogers.

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. Tickets may also be purchased online here.