For 25 years, the Rural Alliance for the Arts has brought impressive cultural events to Batesville.
Outgoing President Leacarol Bennett discussed many firsts for the nonprofit during the past year at the Aug. 27 annual meeting. They included two new types of shows – comedy and a sellout country performance by a Johnny Cash impersonator – plus RAA earning the Batesville Area Chamber of Commerce Distinguished Organization honor.
Incoming President T.J. Greene, the group’s first male leader, joked about breaking a glass ceiling. “I am the B.J. King of the RAA!” He detailed the upcoming season:
• The Indianapolis Jazz Orchestra will entertain Saturday, Sept. 21, at 7 p.m. at RomWeber Marketplace. “A full 16-piece orchestra will play music from the big band and swing era,” he reports. “There’s going to be plenty of room for dancing.” Chris and Laura Ault will offer free dance lessons one hour before the concert. There will be a cash bar and light food choices. Tickets cost $12 for RAA members, $15 for nonmembers and $10 for students.
• The play “Tung and Cheek” features “a pair of hard-nosed, wisecracking detectives” attempting to solve a murder at a mansion. Greene said, “I think it’s going to be a very funny show.” Friday and Saturday performances Nov. 1- 2 start with a 6:30 p.m. dinner at the Big Four Café. Attendees then will move to the nearby RomWeber Marketplace for the show, desserts and a bar. Tickets cost $30 for members and $35 for nonmembers. A Sunday, Nov. 3, show at 4 p.m. with no food costs $12 for members and $15 for nonmembers.
• Greene hopes to provide another first for RAA, a classic film festival at the Gibson Theatre at 7 p.m. once a month during January, February and March. The tentatively-scheduled films are in the top five best movies ever made, according to the American Film Institute’s top 100 list. “What better way to spend those dreary winter evenings” than to bring parents or grandparents to the 1952 musical “Singin’ in the Rain” (No. 5) or make a “special date night” around Valentine’s Day to view 1942’s romantic “Casablanca” (No. 3) or “leave the gun and take the cannoli” to enjoy 1972’s “The Godfather” (No. 2), he suggested. Tickets are $8 for adults and $6 for students and seniors.
• The Rusty Griswolds will perform Friday, March 14, 2014, at 7:30 p.m. at Walhill Farm. The band, a Cincinnati favorite, is “dedicated to the best music of the 1980s” and even has played at a Reds game. Greene predicted the show will be “kind of like an adult prom with dancing .... People who want to have dinner can come early. I’m very excited about the event because I get to relive my middle school days!” Tickets are $15 for members and $18 for nonmembers.
• RAA will host a free Community Art Show reception at Batesville Community Church and street party on George Street Thursday, June 19, 2014, during the Batesville Music and Arts Festival.
• A community musical called “The Yankee Doodle” can be applauded June 27-29, 2014, at the Batesville High School auditorium. The show is similar to the 1942 movie “Yankee Doodle Dandy” (No. 98 on the AFI top 100) and “will feature a large cast of local talent. I can’t think of a better patriotic show for this time of year for Batesville.”
• For its 15th appearance, Minnesota-based Prairie Fire Children’s Theatre experts will bring in sets and costumes and coach local kids July 14-18, 2014, before two “Beauty and the Beast” performances July 18-19 at BHS.
The art auction, RAA’s major fundraiser, will remain in early May at the Hill-Rom Center.
Persons who want to become RAA members, volunteer to help with the auction or other events, learn details or order tickets may reach administrator Joan Kuhlman at 933-0355.
Treasurer Barb Greene reported, “The RAA had another great year financially.” The nonprofit had a year-end balance of $131,329, which does not include RCCF endowment funds or restricted Theatre Development Fund investments.
She observed, “By far, the largest source of income was the art auction,” chaired by Mary Ellen Rippe and Rita George. Total income was $94,088, including art auction, $51,055; program admissions, $18,213; memberships, $13,565; and grants, $10,487.
Expenses were $97,595, including cultural events, $28,414; Arts in Education Program at six public and private schools, $26,000; art auction, $16,555; payroll, $8,016; Music and Arts Festival to support Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra concert, $5,000; administration, $4,455; and Young Artist Showcase, $3,419.
Four were praised for their contributions. Bennett presented the Volunteer of the Year Award to Gary Schrott, Osgood, who builds sets for the fall dinner shows. “Gary is a construction wizard and has taken our set building to a whole new level. He has become a wonderful friend to the RAA.”
The Business Award went to Jeff Byard, Versailles, owner of Jeff Byard Sound. Bennett recalled, “We were struggling with contracting light and sound technicians for our shows. Jeff is knowledgeable, dependable, easy to work with and reasonably priced.”
Jeff Gratz, Batesville, was the President’s Award honoree. According to Bennett, “Ten years ago, he donated a dinner with multiple courses of exquisite gourmet food” and continued the auction contribution each year, raising “thousands of dollars for RAA. No one puts their heart and soul into their donation as much as Chef Gratz,” who was out of town.
Pam Burroughs received the Arts in Education Award from Rural Alliance for the Arts founder Jolene Rockwood. The 29-year Oldenburg Academy art teacher retired last spring. Rockwood said the recipient “is known for her excellence in teaching,” and noted, “She’s been an instructor at many schools,” including Thomas More College and Indiana State University. “She is one of our excellent local artists and has received recognition for her artistic projects” at national competitions. The silver and gold jewelry-maker has exhibited works in Texas, Florida, Detroit and many other locations. Burroughs thanked “a community that supports the arts. It’s very rare.”
Outgoing board members Bennett, Lori Feldbauer, Rita George and Eric Linville were recognized as well.
In addition to T.J. and Barb Greene, incoming officers are Vice President Regina Siefert and Secretary Elaine Howell. Other board members elected or re-elected at the meeting are Chris Ault, community theater; Rachael Berkemeier, grants; Kathleen Bohman, publicity; Mary K. Cambron, asset manager; Mary Mattingly, newsletter; Judy Meyer, photographer; Brandi Myers, hospitality; Jeff Pawlik, social media and technology; Mary Ellen Rippe, marketing and public relations; Dr. Jim Roberts, school liaison; Connie Rozman, community art show; Jen Saner, graphic artist; and Vonni Williamson, Young Artist Showcase.
Debbie Blank can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or 812-934-4343, Ext. 113.
Becoming an arts supporter • RAA has eight membership levels: bravo, $2,000; encore, $1,000; benefactor, $750; patron, $500; platinum, $250; gold, $100; silver, $50; and member, $25. Members receive discounts on tickets and other perks. • More information is available on the Web site www.ruralalliancearts.com.