Theaters remain dark across America this summer, but that didn’t stop the Hylton Performing Arts Center from streaming light, and joy, to hundreds of its supporters this weekend.
That was the goal of the Hylton Center’s 10th Anniversary Celebration, a virtual gala held Saturday evening, July 18 that raised more than $200,000 for the arts, including the center’s Education Initiative.
The virtual celebration was held in lieu of an in-person gala originally planned for April. Faced with the challenges of Covid-19, Hylton Center staff pivoted to plan an online event, quickly learning that sponsors, patrons, and performing artists were still eager for a way to show their support—and celebrate their spirit of community.
“We couldn’t, and we wouldn’t, let this global pandemic stop us from marking the Hylton’s 10th anniversary,” Hylton Center Executive Director Rick Davis said in remarks aired during the event. “There’s too much to celebrate, too many people to thank and honor, and frankly too much work to do to let this moment go by quietly.”
Ticketholders watching from home were treated to two memorable performances. Jazz vocalist Darden Purcell and pianist Mike Noonan were recorded on the Merchant Hall stage inside the Hylton Center. Performing live from their home studio in California, Marilyn McCoo and Billy Davis, Jr., original members of The 5th Dimension, headlined the event. The eternally young husband and wife duo sang several of their famous hits, including “Up, Up and Away,” “Wedding Bell Blues,” “You Don’t Have to be a Star (To Be in My Show),” and “Aquarius/Let the Sunshine In.”
Mason’s new president, Dr. Gregory Washington, provided congratulatory remarks, and a brief video profiled the Education Initiative, which has served more than 140,000 schoolchildren free or at low cost over the last several years.
The event included a tribute to this year’s honorees, Odin, Feldman & Pittleman, P.C., for their many contributions to the Hylton Center, the university, and the community, through their ongoing philanthropic support and volunteer leadership.
Participants could opt either for a deluxe experience that included a home-delivered catered meal from Susan Gage Caterers, complete with a bottle of wine, for $300, or view-only access of the livestreamed event for $50.
In total the event raised $200,250, with ten percent of the net proceeds dedicated to the Hylton Center’s endowment, which ensures artistic excellence now and in the years to come. The “Raise Your Paddle” fundraiser, during which participants could text or use the chat box to make their pledge, brought in $36,650 in direct support of the center’s Education Initiative.
“Part of our job is to keep working on what that beautiful little phrase ‘the arts create community’ really means,” Rick Davis added. “We know we can do a better job of making our community more inclusive, more diverse, more exciting, and more representative of this dynamic place we live in—and you have our pledge and our promise that this work is front and center in our thoughts.”
The event was supported by many regional businesses and individual donors, including presenting sponsor Compton & Duling, P.C., as well as Odin, Feldman, & Pittleman, P.C. and Amazon Web Services.
The evening concluded with the announcement that Leslie Odom, Jr., the Tony and Grammy® Award-winning performer best known for his breakout role as Aaron Burr in the Broadway phenomenon Hamilton, will headline the Hylton Center’s 11th Anniversary Gala on May 2, 2021.
Located on George Mason University’s Science and Technology Campus in Manassas, the Hylton Performing Arts Center was created in partnership with Prince William County, the City of Manassas, and the Commonwealth of Virginia. Since its opening in 2010 the Hylton Center has become the cultural hub of Prince William County and surrounding communities. The center recently completed an Education and Rehearsal Wing, opened in December 2019, adding 17,000 square feet of space for rehearsals, classes, and performances.
Rob Riordan and Kirstin Franko / July 21, 2020