By SOFIA LYNCH
Art appreciators fundraise their way to Broadway
Founded and run by humanities teacher Elizabeth Thoburn, Washtenaw Community College’s Arts Club has been operating for seven years at the college. In those seven years, the most active and ambitious group the club has seen is the current band of students, according to Thoburn.
Despite what many assume from its name, the Arts Club is not for artists, but rather for art appreciators. The mission of the club is to involve students in the experience and appreciation of art – which they fulfill with frequent field trips to cultural events in the surrounding area.
Originally funded by a membership fee, the club has since moved over to monthly fundraising to back their expeditions.
“I said, ‘You guys, if you want to go places, you have to do fundraisers,’” said Thoburn. “So now, because they are such an active group, they’ve decided once a month, we are just simply doing it.”
Most recently, the arts club set its sights on a Broadway production of “the Phantom of the Opera” in Lansing – despite the steep ticket prices.
“Once we started on it, everybody was so good about being here and helping fundraise,” said Kim Evinger, a 21-year-old zoology major and the club’s treasurer.
The arts club decidedly strays away from the traditional bake-sale style of fundraising because it wasn’t drawing in the funds the club needed for its ambitious adventures, according to Thoburn. Now the club raises funds by selling little trinkets Thoburn has collected over her 40 years of world travels and ceramics, created by her husband and former WCC instructor, David Goldberg.
“I told him, ‘We can only have so many ceramics. You cannot keep producing ceramics unless you donate them to the Arts Club for fundraisers,’” Thoburn said.
After multiple fundraisers and a generous contribution from Student Activities, the group was able to offer a much more reasonable price for the tickets.
“The Phantom is always so extremely expensive that it is simply out of reach for many, many college-age kids,” Thoburn said. “I had people on this trip who had never set foot in an opera house. They had never seen anything even remotely like it.”
“It was the first time that I’ve been to an actual Broadway production,” said 32-year-old club member, Mike O’Dell Jr. “I’ve only ever been to, like, school performances and everything. There was a huge difference.”
The production was held at the Wharton Center for Performing Arts in East Lansing. Unlike the usual club trips, which average about 10 attendees, the demand for the Phantom warranted two school vans for the 20 eager art lovers.
The group consensus seemed to be that it was worth every penny and every hour of volunteering.
“As a humanities student, quite a few of us have already been in ET’s (Thoburn) classes,” said one Phantom attendee, 19-year-old Joe Longo. “It was really funny recognizing all these things we learned in Phantom.”
“Doing events with the club you get to go out there and experience everything, kind of soak it all in and learn appreciation of art,” said O’Dell. “Even if your major isn’t in art, it’s good to be social and appreciate the humanities.”