A magical night to celebrate members

Zachary Araki

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Food, live music, an exhibition of Josephine Sacabo’s photography and entertainment such as a dance by the Pandorium Belly Dance Company brought members together to be honored at the Hammond Regional Arts Center’s “Magical, Mystical Membership Gala.” Zachary Araki/The Lion’s Roar

The Hammond Regional Arts Center honored its members for their support at its annual gala.

On Friday, June 1, the arts center invited its members for a celebratory night of food, a free raffle, live music and entertainment from groups such as La La Tribal Belly Dance and the Pandorium Belly Dance Company.

Besides showing gratitude to members for their support, the “Magical, Mystical Membership Gala” also celebrated the arts and “what’s vibrant and alive here in Hammond” according to Executive Director of HRAC Maureen Joyce. Joyce hopes to engage the community and build further support for HRAC’s mission.

Joyce said, “It’s important to encourage membership because membership helps support our mission, and then that little bit of dedication and small membership fee shows a commitment to improving the quality of life for everyone in the community and giving us those kinds of experiences that are valuable.”

Michael Miller and his wife became members of HRAC on the night of the gala. He believes supporting the arts in this way will help get young people to better appreciate artists’ work.

“We should keep it going, keep it alive for the younger generation,” said Miller. “I think they would appreciate it if they see it. If you get involved in that, they might want to get involved with it also.”

Martie Fellom attended the gala for Fellom Ballet School as a member of HRAC. She appreciates the variety of art showcased at the arts center and introduced to the community.

“Right now, we’re experiencing performing arts with the musicians,” said Fellom. “We saw the belly dancers, and then we’re surrounded by visual art. It’s a collection that I think is really good for the community. We wanted to support their big efforts for trying to bring the community together.”

June McNeil shared why she recently became a member of the arts center.

“I’ve just been putting it off but have wanted to for a while,” said McNeil. “The real instigator for me was that my granddaughter wanted to take the art class, so I think that was impetus for me to go ahead and join and get her in here. I would become more active that way.”

Concurrent with the gala, HRAC also displayed the photography of Josephine Sacabo, the largest collection of her work to date in one setting, according to Joyce. The display inspired the theme for this year’s gala. 

“Photography is one of those forms that is usually taking us and telling us what’s there or to look closely at what’s there,” said Joyce. “Her photographs ask us to question what’s there. They have a sense of mystery and even a sense of magic about them, and what’s wonderful about that is that helped inspire our ‘Magical, Mystical Membership Gala’ and all things that have a sense of mystery.”

McNeil wishes she had attended the exhibition’s opening reception to learn more about Sacabo’s artwork.

“I would love to know how these are made, and I love looking at them,” said McNeil. “My daughter would love them too. I need to bring her here and let her see them, but they’re interesting. They’re so in-depth. They have so many layers of thought that I see when I look at them. I just would like to know more about them now.”

McNeil believes supporting the arts is important for children to experience more artistic endeavors.

“They need that creativity,” said McNeil. “They need the outlet for expression in so many different ways, and I enjoy the creativity. I love to see the artists that come here, and I love coming to the events because they’re always fun and exciting.”

In the study “Arts Education and Positive Youth Development,” Kenneth Elpus states “each additional year of arts study was significantly associated with a 20 percent reduction in the likelihood that an adolescent would ever be suspended out-of-school” while “each additional year of music study was significantly associated with an 11 percent reduction in the likelihood that an adolescent would ever consume alcohol.” According to the same study, “former students of music and theater were significantly more optimistic as adults than were former non-arts students.”

Joyce discussed the significance of art in a person’s life.

“We know that the arts improve the quality of life for everyone in our community regardless of where they are on the socioeconomic scale because most of our events like most of our openings are open and free to the public year-round,” said Joyce. “During our gallery hours, anyone can come in here, look and experience the art.”

For Fellom, art can have a positive impact on someone and change a person’s perspective on life.

Fellom said, “I do feel the arts can help a person who perhaps might be thinking about something, and they get transformed when they have an experience either viewing the visual arts or seeing a performing arts work. I think it can change their moment in time, and what I think is so vital to the community is to be able to have a journey in experiencing the arts because life is short.”

Miller shared his thoughts on the gala.

“It’s really great,” said Miller. “We’re enjoying the heck out of it. I’m glad I came. If I wasn’t here, I would be watching ‘Gunsmoke’ on TV or something.” 

Joyce encourages people to view the exhibition outside the gala during normal gallery hours when there are fewer distractions. 

“Art is certainly one of those terms that are even difficult to define in an objective manner or definitive manner,” said Joyce. “It is definitely a subjective term, but we look at it through a kind of lens and understanding of principles and elements of design, and she certainly embodies all of those with her photographic work.”

Anyone can become a member of HRAC by going to the website or visiting the arts center. Membership is $30 for individuals, $20 for seniors and military members, $15 for students, $50 for couples and $100 for families. Members are eligible for discounts on HRAC’s programs and events including arts educational programs like art classes and workshops.

“We just want to get people involved in the exhibitions and programs that we are providing here for the community,” said Joyce. “We make it really easy, and we make it really affordable because we are trying to engage as many people as possible.” 

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