- The Washington Times - Thursday, May 25, 2006

Support for the arts is alive and well in Washington if the outstanding success of the Washington Performing Arts Society 40th anniversary gala last Saturday is any indication.

The $900,000 fundraising goal was met with the help of Bob Levey’s auctioneering talents, which raised $92,000 through the sale of a trip to the Salzburg Festival, embassy dinners, a helicopter trip to an Inn at Little Washington feast, two cello recitals by Washington Performing Arts Society President Neale Perl (one to be claimed by longtime supporter Jacqueline Badger Mars) and the requisite cute puppy — a Cairn Terrier (now residing with Steve and Kathy Ginsberg). Mr. Levey also persuaded the guests to contribute more than $53,000 to support the Children of the Gospel Vocal Workshop — with each child’s participation costing $500.

The influence of the diplomatic hosts, Chinese Ambassador Zhou Wenzhong and his wife Xie Shumin, was key to the decor and menu at the Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center event as well as an outstanding minirecital by 23-year-old pianist Lang Lang.

In 1965, WPAS founder Patrick Hayes had a dream to bring world-renowned performing artists to Washington by utilizing contacts with the many foreign embassies located here. By all accounts, WPAS has succeeded admirably in carrying out his mission.

After all, “culture has no boundaries” as Hervor Jonasdottir Agustsson, wife of Icelandic Ambassador Helgi Agustsson, noted as she circulated among a crowd that included ambassadors from Argentina, Austria, the Bahamas, Chile, Ecuador, Egypt, Italy, Malta, Panama, Poland, Romania and Trinidad.

Also spotted among those browsing the many silent auction items were Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, WPAS President Emeritus Douglas H. Wheeler, Dr. Aaron and Alexine Jackson, Peter and Melody Gilsey, and event co-chairs Linda D. Rabbitt, Jane Lipton Cafritz and Enid Tucker Johnson.

Jennifer Crier Johnston

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