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Cornish’s Next Century Gala Funds Scholarships

Cornish College of the Arts’ Next Century Gala raised more than $550,000 for scholarships as the institution celebrated its 101st anniversary. Musical theater star Stephanie J. Block and Pulitzer Prize and Tony Award winning playwright/director Brian Yorkey headlined Cornish College of the Arts’ Next Century Gala on November 13, 2015, at The Four Seasons Hotel.

The evening’s welcome speeches began when Linda Brown, Chair of the Board of Trustees, acknowledged faculty member Timothy McCuen Piggee’s recent receipt of the 2015 Gregory A. Falls Award for Sustained Achievement and his many contributions to theater in Seattle as well as at Cornish. Piggee acted as the Master of Ceremonies for the evening.

Dr. Nancy J. Uscher acknowledged the distinguished history of Cornish, which figured prominently in the brith of the American avant garde movement, and the many achievements of its alumni in Seattle and around the world. She noted the evolving role of the artist in society and the ways in which Cornish prepares its students to be leaders in a changing world. “Our own graduate, and now trustee, Eleuthera Lisch, has spent decades using her artistic talents to work on the prevention of gang violence and to frame gang behavior as a public health issue,” Uscher said.

Her remarks were followed by the Honorable Ed Murray, Mayor of Seattle, and student speaker AnnaClaire Laush ’17. Murray touched on the recent tragedy in France as well as the importance of the arts to bridge cultures and bring people together.

In addition to a special performance by Tony Award nominee Block and remarks by Yorkey, who directed the current production of My Fair Lady at Village Theatre, the audience enjoyed performances by Cornish dance students in “Tiny Dances” choreographed by Wade Madsen during pre-dinner cocktail hour.

The black-tie dinner event began with a screening of “itsy bitsy,” a film created by Cornish dance student JuJu Kusanagi ’17 and her sister Lisa Kusanagi. The Kusunagi Sisters’ production won the Audience Choice Award at the 40 NORTH Dance Film Festival 2015 and has been screened at multiple festivals. Student performances also included musicians Andrew Forbes ’16, Ruby Dunphy ’18, and Michael Conlin ’15, as well as the alumni-student jazz ensemble Lucas Winter Trio (Lucas Winter ’16, Adam Kessler ’06, and Paul Gabrielson).

Long-time supporters James and Sherry Raisbeck started the “Raise the Paddle” portion of the evening with a pledge of $100,000, and Ed Littlefield provided a generous $50,000 matching gift. Additional donations, including sponsorships and matching funds, brought the final evening total to more than $550,000 for student scholarships.