Arts Afloat Benefit

   Area residents still have an opportunity to Keep the Arts Afloat for the coming year, plus the chance to win $10,000 or the early bird prize of a $250 shopping spree.

 Those rewards will come to winners in the North Central Louisiana Arts Council annual Keep the Arts Afloat Benefit. Ticket sales began earlier in the year and will continue through March 5 or until all tickets are sold.

 "We weren't kidding when we named this event 'Keep the Arts Afloat," NCLAC executive director Leigh Anne Chambers said. "This is our biggest money-making project of the year, and it's more critical now than ever because of multiple cuts made by the Louisiana Division of the Arts."

 Peter Jones, NCLAC president, explained that the state is zeroing out operating grant support for all small and medium-sized arts organizations. NCLAC – which serves the parishes of Lincoln, Bienville, Claiborne, Jackson and Union – falls into that category.

 "NCLAC has been carefully allotting its resources in response to earlier funding cuts and has made a commitment to continue to offer its most popular programs," Jones said. Even so, some programs have already had to be canceled.

 The organization supports visual, performing and literary arts. Among its featured programs are:

 * Drama Warehouse, which teaches students the fundamentals of theater from auditions through performance. More than 300 young people have benefited from this project during the past 16 years. Such activities provide children literacy skills, public speaking and self-confidence, Chambers said. Another youth-centered project, Summer Arts Camp for Kids, has impacted more than 2000 children.

* Holiday Arts Tour, which showcases area artists and musicians for a weekend each November, allowing them to interact with the public and sell their work. Over 650 attend this event annually, adding an estimated $64,480 to the area economy.

* Peach Festival Art Exhibition – Since 1987, this community art show has occurred during the annual Squire Creek Louisiana Peach Festival.

 "We are deeply grateful for the area's past support of NCLAC's largest fundraiser," Chambers said. "It would be such a shame for any more of these events to be dropped from our schedule due to funding cuts."

 This year, the Grand Prize is a check for $10,000. The drawing will be held March 5 at the Ruston Civic Symphony’s Mardi Gras Ball during NCLAC’s Silent Auction – or when all tickets are sold.

 Additional opportunities are available for early purchasers, whose tickets are entered into drawings for other prizes. An early-bird drawing will be held Dec. 10. Following each early-bird drawing, the winning tickets are put back into the overall pool and are still eligible for subsequent drawings. Buyers do need not be present at any of the drawings to win.

 "As in the past, 250 tickets will be available," Chambers said, "which provides an excellent probability of winning."

 The $100 tickets can be purchased from any NCLAC board member or at Piney Hills Gallery in the Dixie Center for the Arts in downtown Ruston. Credit options include charging to MasterCard of Visa or to a Lewis Boutique account.

 For more information, call NCLAC at 255-1450 or call Jones at 251-9468.