"In the future, everyone will have fifteen minutes of fame" - Andy Warhol paraphrased.
As guests filtered into Blue Chip's Stardust Event Center Saturday night, they were greeted by a room sparingly lit. The room lights mostly dimmed, event attendees were cast in shadow, save for the erratic glow of reds, blues and greens that shone up and down the hall, like one would find in a bohemian nightclub. A single white spotlight illuminated an empty podium, suggesting the role of an unnamed artist who could fill up the entire room with their energy. As guests filtered in, the lights grew brighter and brighter.
Luminaries from all over LaPorte County gathered here for a night of fundraising Saturday night at the Blue Chip Stardust Event Center. Key community leaders, local businesses, and even Mayor Ron Meer came out in support of the Lubeznik Center for the Arts' annual Art Bash and its profound mission: to bring art, and the experience of making art, to those who need its light the most. The donations were accompanied by a silent auction, which included works of art generously donated by the Lubeznik students that crafted them. Afterward, there was a black-light dance party, which saw event sponsors getting down with all the spiritual warmth of soul that giving to a good cause can yield.
The night was made possible by the generous donations of Rodney Lubeznik and Susan Goodman, Bulk Equipment Corp, General Insurance Services, Glazer Facial Plastic & Cosmetic Surgery, McDonald's of LaPorte County, Michigan City Paper Box Company, Blue Chip Casinos, Horizon Bank, NIPSCO, Powers & Sons Construction Company, Trout Glass & Mirror, and media sponsors like LaPorteCountyLife.com. All in the same room, they raised their paddles and pledged their gifts to the important mission that the Center has declared for itself.
Founded in 2004, the Lubeznik Center for the Arts is a nonprofit arts center that makes sure that art is accessible to all ages. This years' exhibit, "Warhol, Icon, and Influence," is a first for the Lubeznik Center. The gallery, which has been open since June 9th, features legendary artist Andy Warhol's works, which is cause for excitement.
"We don't normally bring an internationally renowned artist into our galleries," said Amy Davis-Navardauskas, Marketing Director for the Lubeznik Center. She says this rare opportunity for LaPorte County to see a household name in their backyard helps folks get an understanding of who he was and why he was famous.
Past the walls of the art gallery, one of the Lubeznik Center's main objectives is to bring opportunities for disadvantaged youth as well as adults with cognitive disabilities to experience and appreciate art. The Center also provides many opportunities for them to create art themselves, enabling them to participate in healthy self-expression, which may explain why so many prominent business owners, community leaders, and celebrities came out in support of this cause.
Emceeing the event was Mary Ann Bergerson Ahern, renowned NBC 5 anchor and political reporter. She swept the crowd off their feet with her whimsy and charm, showing that despite her role within the seriousness of the news cycle, she was once just a young woman from Michigan City with a dream.
Bergerson Ahern stressed the importance of the arts. She was blessed to be able to express herself artistically in her youth by performing with youth drama troupes. As she remembered those days, she looked back on how important it was to her life's path that she has such a space to create.
"Arts gave me the confidence to say a gal from Michigan City could go off and have her dream job, and still have it today," she said, triumphantly. "The arts teach us to dream--that we can do something more, across language, across class, across cultures."
After Ahern's address, the audience was treated to a moving film that documented Lubeznik students' work, showing that the donations raised tonight would go as far as a student can dream. One such young man had painted an uplifting self-portrait at one of the art sessions. In the portrait, a star frames the young boy's face, symbolizing “confidence and being a light for [his] family."
Hannah Hammond-Hagman, Education Director for the Lubeznik Center, says that providing free arts education, and facilitating outreach through the arts, rank among the highest priorities for the organization.
"We work with Safe Habor and Boys and Girls Clubs in Michigan City to offer after-school programs," said Hammond-Hagman. "We welcome about 2000 students annually who come to us for the field trips we offer, at little to no cost to our students."
"The arts are getting cut through regular schools," said Amy Davis-Navardauskas. By extending a helping hand to programs such as Safe Harbor and the Boys and Girls Clubs, the nonprofit is making sure that the most economically disadvantaged students don't miss out on the life-enriching power of art.
"We help give kids an avenue for expression," said Davis-Navardauskas. "It gives kids a voice."
Mike Hackett, the co-chair of the ArtBash committee, explained that he adopted his role because art enriches the community and gets people talking.
"It brings together people with different ideas and different mindsets to, in a sense, discuss life," said Hackett, gesturing toward a long table filled with the students' artwork for sale. It was modern-looking portraiture, seemingly inspired somewhat by street art, and it was swarmed with buyers who relished the students' honesty in depicting their true selves.
While Hackett spoke, the self-portrait from the video, its subject's head crowned with a yellow star and an optimistic expression on the young man's face, was visible amongst the rest of the beautiful artwork.
"It's phenomenal how much we can enrich these kids' lives," he said.
After seeing the outpouring of generosity tonight, it’s safe to say that Hackett was right. To plan your trip to "Warhol, Icon, and Influence," click here. To find out more about the Lubeznik Center for the Arts, click here.