Thursday, February 15, 2007

Forty-mile-an-hour winds, subfreezing temperatures and snow-sloppy sidewalks didn’t deter more than 300 patrons of the arts from attending the Master Chorale of Washington’s “Love of the Arts” fundraising gala at Georgetown’s Four Seasons Wednesday night.

“It’s wonderful to celebrate the arts on Valentine’s Day,” said Catherine Stevens, wife of Alaska Sen. Ted Stevens, during a pre-dinner VIP reception for well-heeled donors. “And we had the added advantage of slugging through the snow. It made us feel right at home,” she joked.

The Stevenses were among four couples honored for significant contributions to the local arts scene. Mrs. Stevens serves on numerous nonprofit arts boards, and the couple is known for bringing Alaskan artists to the capital and national artists to Alaska.

“I grew up in Alaska with an interest in native culture,” Mrs. Stevens said. “A deep connection to the arts is natural for us.”

The other couples were Calvin and Jane Cafritz, whose family foundation has contributed more than $240 million to local arts projects since 1970; Gilbert and Jaylee Mead (he is an heir to the Consolidated Paper fortune), who have donated about $40 million to the Arena Stage; and Arturo E. and Hilda Ochoa-Brillembourg, founders of the Youth Orchestra of the Americas.

“Without these couples, our arts scene would not be as rich and thriving,” said Dorothy McSweeny, chairman of the D.C. Commission on the Arts and Humanities.

“People might not know it, but the arts contribute about $1.4 billion to the city’s economy, which is more than the combined ticket sales from all sports events,” Mrs. McSweeny noted.

The gala, emceed by Sam and Jan Smith Donaldson, was expected to raise $200,000 for the Master Chorale and its music education programs in D.C. public schools.

Aside from the 10-minute awards ceremony, during which the honorees received large heart-shaped plaques, the evening was all about love, whether expressed by the chorale’s performances of such show-tune favorites as George Gershwin’s “S Wonderful,” or in eloquent statements about the connection between love and the arts.

“Love and art are both nourishment for the soul,” Mrs. Ochoa-Brillembourg said, “and the soul is the bridge between the mind and the heart.”

Gabriella Boston

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