Elora Tocci | Staff Writer
It’s a concept that serves as a synonym of sorts for hope and opportunity, a chance for students who wish to expand their minds to study and learn in places they may not otherwise be able to afford.
Chautauqua’s School of Art is no exception — each summer, about 40 students spend seven weeks learning, studying and creating with the help of scholarship money.
That money comes in part from VACI Partners, a volunteer group that supports the Visual Arts at Chautauqua Institution and works to promote and sustain arts programs on the grounds.
Two VACI Partners events will run this week to raise money for next summer’s art scholarships.
The first event, Art in the Park, will run from noon to 4:30 p.m. Sunday in Miller Park. Local artists from Jamestown, Dunkirk, Buffalo and surrounding areas have purchased tables on which they will display and sell their work.
Jack McKibbon, president of VACI Partners, said a range of different types of artwork will be on sale, and the goal, in addition to fundraising, is to attract people from the local community as well as from inside the grounds.
“We really have two world-class galleries here, and we want to support the visual arts in Western New York and make our programs here as strong as possible,” McKibbon said. “If artists feel good about having their work here, it attracts higher quality work, higher quality teachers, higher quality students. It’s a domino effect.”
VACI Partners’ second fundraiser, Stroll through the Arts, will take place from 5:30 p.m. to 8 p.m. Thursday. A $75 ticket gets you dinner and drinks supplied by the Athenaeum Hotel, live music and dancing in the streets near Fowler-Kellogg Art Center and Strohl Art Center. A silent auction will be held to sell chairs painted and designed by local artists and, for the first time at this annual event, art students will sell their work — and donate all the money they make to the scholarship fund for next summer’s students.
During the interview process for this summer, student candidates were told to bring art with them or make time to create pieces that they could sell at Stroll through the Arts. This way, they could contribute to next year’s class and give back to the programs that helped them pay their way this summer.
McKibbon said the students are excited to help out a group of students they have yet to meet and make a tangible difference in these strangers’ art lives, the same way strangers made a difference in theirs. He said VACI Partners hopes to make VACI as self-sufficient as possible so that the Institution can dedicate more of its funds to other programs.
But the scholarship program is about more than just giving students money to live in Bellinger Hall for the summer and purchase art supplies. Each art student gets “adopted” for the summer by a family who is passionate about the visual arts, and in many cases, those students find a second home with their adoptive families.
Lisa Jakab, McKibbon’s adopted student this summer, said the program helps her feel connected to Chautauqua and exposes her to the Chautauquan way of life that she wouldn’t otherwise experience. She spends almost all of her time in her studio or in class and doesn’t attend many of the lectures or programming outside of the art program’s offerings.
“It helps you to connect with people in the community and feel like you’re a part of it,” she said.
McKibbon and his wife have adopted a crop of students over the years, and he said they still keep in touch with many of them.
“We’re very pleased with the relationships we’ve developed with our students,” he said. “It’s been a lot of fun.”