“Rhapsody in LU” will honor the fine arts at Lamar University on Saturday, March 19, when Lamar’s Friends of the Arts present the 37th Le Grand Bal, a gala evening of art, fine dining, dancing and entertainment. Le Grand Bal is the major annual fundraiser for the College of Fine Arts and Communication.  

An opening reception begins at 7 p.m. and includes a silent art auction at the Dishman Art Museum, which features more than 200 works by students, faculty and alumni — a diverse range of original painting, drawing, print-making, photography, ceramics and jewelry.

The evening will continue at the Montange Center at 8 p.m. with a gourmet buffet, dancing and live entertainment by Night & Day Orchestra under the direction of Wayne Dyess and The Works of Houston.

This year’s event will honor Judy and James Black of Beaumont.

“Judy and James Black made significant contributions in the area of the arts,” said Michele Smith, who is co-chairing the event with her husband Mitchell. “They were a natural choice. They are people who have done a lot for the community, for Lamar, and for the arts in particular, and we wanted to honor that.”

Judy Black is a member of the College of Fine Arts and Communication Advisory Council and a past president of the Board of Trustees for the Art Museum of Southeast Texas. James is an attorney and executive director of Wilton and Effie Mae Hebert Foundation.

Le Grand Bal provides valuable support to the College of Fine Arts and Communication.  Funds generated by the Bal enable the Friends of the Arts to support 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. The funds provide faculty enrichment and enable students to expand their horizons.

 “‘Rhapsody in LU’ is a play on the George Gershwin song ‘Rhapsody in Blue,’” said Michele. “‘Rhapsody’ means an exalted or excessively enthusiastic expression of feeling in speech or writing. We thought it was a perfect description for the night, which we want to be a celebration of all the fine arts, such as theatre, classic art, dance, and music.”

The Smiths are avid arts supporters and both have served on the Friends of the Arts board at Lamar. Michele, an attorney with Mehaffy Weber, graduated Lamar with a Bachelor of Business Administration degree in accounting. She received her Juris Doctorate from Baylor University School of Law.

Mitchell graduated with a Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of Texas and a law degree from Baylor. He is an attorney with Germer Gertz in Beaumont. In addition to their work with the Friends of the Arts, Michele has also served on the board of the Symphony of Southeast Texas, and Mitchell is current president of the Art Museum of Southeast Texas’s Board of Trustees.

“We believe strongly that fine arts are important personally and in the community, so we were happy to support Lamar University in this endeavor,” said Michele.Dean of the College of Fine Arts and Communications, Russ Schultz, said Mitch and Michele have stepped in to chair and have approached the job with the greatest energy and excitement.

“These are two wonderful, caring people of the community whose long-time passion for the arts has greatly benefited Southeast Texas and Lamar over the years,” said Schultz.

The Friends of the Arts organized in 1973 under the leadership of then-Dean Brock Brentlinger and staged its first Bal in 1975. The event continued with Jimmy Simmons at the helm when he was dean of the college and it has since raised millions of dollars for Lamar.

Tickets are $150 per person or $300 per couple, with underwriting opportunities available at levels ranging from $750 to $10,000. For additional information or reservations, call the Lamar University College of Fine Arts and Communication, (409) 880-8137.