Elegance and sophistication will be the hallmarks of the night as Lamar University celebrates the party of the year with Le Grand Bal: “An Evening of Art,” on Saturday, March 22.
The gala evening features a silent art auction and reception in the Dishman Art Museum, followed by a gourmet buffet, dancing and entertainment in the Montagne Center. The ball is presented by Lamar’s Friends of the Arts and is the major annual fundraiser for the College of Fine Arts and Communication.
Tickets are $150 per person or $300 per couple, with underwriting opportunities available at levels ranging from $750 to $10,000.
“It’s a black-tie affair and very elegantly done. The décor and ambience is beyond belief when you enter the Montagne Center,” said Joseph Fertitta, this year’s co-chair and executive vice president of Texas Coffee Co., which makes and distributes Seaport Coffee and the TexJoy line of seasonings. Joseph and his wife, Sandy, who is also a co-chair of the event, are active members of the Friends of the Arts.
“You can expect an evening of elegance, unbelievable food, beverage and music,” Joseph Fertitta, said.
Funds generated by the ball enable the Friends of the Arts to contribute to scholarships and educational enhancements such as master classes, visiting artists and trips to clinics and workshops that expand learning opportunities for students and add to faculty members’ academic credentials.
“Beaumont’s been very fortunate and blessed to have Lamar University because it is a calling card to our city that brings in a lot of diversification and is an asset to the community. If you live in Beaumont or the surrounding area and you care about your city, that itself should be enough for someone to support this event,” Joseph Fertitta said.
“An Evening of Art” begins with a silent auction and reception at the Dishman Art Museum. Guests will have the opportunity to bid on original artwork at the auction from 7-9 p.m. The art auction features more than 200 works by students, faculty, alumni and special friends of Lamar – a diverse range of original paintings, drawings, prints, photographs, ceramics and jewelry.
The entertainment at the ball, from 8 p.m. to midnight, will be provided by Johnny Dee & the Rocket 88s, a popular oldies band from Austin, and Beaumont’s own Night & Day Orchestra.
“Johnny Dee & The Rocket 88s is a good oldies band that has been around for a long, long time,” Sandy Fertitta said.
“Years ago there was a group of individuals — I was one of them — that started a dance called the Tuxedo & Tennis Shoe Revue. We would work diligently to bring some of the latest rock bands to this area. We were able to book them and they were a pretty hot number then and still are now,” Joseph Fertitta added.
Guests will dine on a sumptuous feast prepared under the direction of Ricardo Saldana, executive chef for Chartwells, the Lamar catering service. Main dishes include coq au vin, a classic French dish of chicken cooked in red wine; carved prime rib of beef au jus with creamy horseradish sauce; and the ever-popular jumbo boiled shrimp accompanied by spicy remoulade or cocktail sauce. This year there will be a sushi station with California, Philadelphia and crunch rolls prepared in front of the guests.
Sides include asparagus, oven-roasted vegetables, herbed roasted red potatoes, French petit rolls, Hawaiian rolls and croissants with butter. The decadent dessert bar will have mocha pots de crème, assorted fruit trifles and coconut macaroon cookies.
The theme of this year’s Le Grand Bal was an easy decision for committee members.
“We’re honoring Mary Jane Garth,” Sandy Fertitta said. “It’s going to be all about her and things she likes. She’s just so full of life and she shares so much with Lamar and the community. She’s always willing to give and do. It’s a tribute to her.”
Mary Jane Garth, 87, of Beaumont, is a beloved patron of the arts, and is well known for her myriad of contributions to Lamar University and the Southeast Texas community.
“Mary Jane is a very special member of the community,” said Russ Schultz, dean of the College of Fine Arts and Communication. “She recognizes the importance of art to quality of life, and then through her actions and service, puts her love of art to work in the community to make Beaumont a much better place. While she is the honoree for this Le Grand Bal, it is Lamar University and the Beaumont community who are honored to have her.”
Mary Jane’s son Terry Garth said the honor is humbling for both his mother and the entire Garth family.
“It’s almost too much for words,” Terry Garth said. “She has dedicated most of her adult life to the pursuit of the arts and the support of organizations and educational institutions that promote the arts. She believes the arts are an important foundation for cities and communities to thrive.”
Originally from Houston, Mary Jane Garth moved to Beaumont after marrying Tyrrell Garth. In 1966, she relocated with her family to Aspen, Colo., where she lived for more than 40 years on the Aspen Valley Ranch, which she owned and managed. She subsequently became a founding member of the Anderson Ranch Art Center, president of the Aspen Art Museum and a supporter of the Aspen Music Festival and the Aspen Santa Fe Ballet. Garth was also a significant supporter and commercial dealer of the arts in Aspen and New York City for many years. She has traveled the world searching for special works of art and has accumulated an outstanding collection of international modern and pop art.
“She’s developed a tremendous collection … of over 200 pieces of artwork and sculptures,” Terry Garth said. “It’s a contemporary collection, mainly post-impressionist and modernist art. She’s opened her home to so many people to come see it. She just loves to talk about the history of each piece of work that she has.”
Mary Jane Garth returned to Beaumont a few years ago, and she has continued to give many volunteer hours to the community, along with her generous charitable support of many deserving organizations, including the Art Museum of Southeast Texas and the Symphony of Southeast Texas. She has also endowed a scholarship at Lamar that continues this spirit of cultural enrichment. The Mary Jane Garth Regents’ Scholarship benefits undergraduates majoring in music or art at Lamar.
“Our family has a long and distinguished legacy of supporting the arts in Beaumont,” Terry Garth said. “We have had a wonderful relationship with the city, as well as with the arts.”
The Friends of the Arts organized in 1973 and staged its first Le Grand Bal in 1975. The event has raised millions of dollars for Lamar. Over the years, Lamar talents have shared the spotlight with nationally known entertainment headliners. Activities, decor, entertainment and the overall evening are designed to reflect the talents of Lamar art, theater, music, dance and communication students.
In addition to chairpersons Sandy and Joseph Fertitta, other committee chairs for “An Evening of Art” include Lynda Moncla and Melissa Edwards, atmosphere; Megan Young, art auction and exhibition; Patti and Floyd McSpadden, food; Allison Getz and Tammy Hebert, invitations; Sharon Forret, publicity; and Albert Nolen, reservations.
This year’s underwriting committee includes Mandie and Dr. Garrett Peel, Becky and Chuck Mason, Kim and Roy Steinhagen, W.L. Pate, Nell McCallum and Dr. Terry Morris, Sandra Clark, Michele and Mitch Smith, Dean Terrebonne and Rusty Chimeno.
Le Grand Bal has run the gamut of motifs over the years. Recent themes include “Cardinal Express” (2013), honoring Sallye Keith; “Some Enchanted Evening” (2012), honoring Chuck and Becky Mason; and “Rhapsody in LU” (2011), honoring Judy and James Black.
For additional information or reservations, call the Lamar University College of Fine Arts and Communication, (409) 880-8137. Tickets may also be purchased online at fineartscomm.lamar.edu.
“It’s really more than about us,” Terry Garth said. “It’s really about Lamar University and about all the art students out there that she feels like she has helped and will be able to help for many years to come, and that means a lot to our entire family.”