ARTS by George! returned on Saturday, September 30, 2023, hosted by the College of Visual and Performing Arts (CVPA) at George Mason University. The benefit event, which was headlined by GRAMMY and Tony Award winner Renée Elise Goldsberry, raised more than $275,000 for student scholarships in visual arts, dance, music, theater, game design, film, arts management, as well as for the Mason Community Arts Academy, Green Machine Ensembles, and the Great Performances at Mason season at the Center for the Arts. With donations still coming in, ARTS by George! has raised more than $4.1 million for the arts at Mason since the event began in 2006.
The event gave students and faculty from each discipline an opportunity to present behind-the-scenes showcases, film screenings, performances, and interactive experiences. Programming was held in eight open studios, venues, and rehearsal halls across Mason’s Fairfax campus, with beverage and cuisine stations offered throughout.
During the evening’s showcases, guests flowed in and out of three buildings on the Fairfax Campus: deLaski Performing Arts Building, Harris Theatre, and Horizon Hall. Inside deLaski, students from the Dewberry School of Music dazzled the crowd with the powerful voices of Mason Opera students or the impressive instrumental skills ranging from piano to wind symphony. The Dewberry School of Music didn’t stop the beat all night, with talented instrumental and vocal musicians presenting piano, jazz, and opera selections during the nearly two hours of student showcases.
Just down the hall, students from the Mason Community Arts Academy presented previews of their work and in a separate room, Film at Mason played selections on an array of television screens, inviting patrons to see what students had created in the program. In another wing of deLaski, emerging professionals of the Mason School of Dance performed to packed houses. With both intimate dance performances, as well as the Mason School of Dance’s collaboration with the Dewberry School of Music in their revival of “Come Sunday,” rooms were frequently filled shoulder to shoulder with enthusiastic audience members.
As guests made their way out of deLaski across the Johnson Center Plaza, they were enticed into Harris Theater by the sounds of Mason School of Theater students. Alternating their time on the Harris stage, students astonished the crowd with songs from their upcoming production of 9 to 5 The Musical as well as a student-written one-act play by Dyllan Hutchinson entitled “So, Two Spies Walk Into a Restaurant,” which premiered earlier in The Originals! this September. More music flowed from the amphitheater space between Harris and Horizon Hall, where Green Machine’sFife and Drum ensemble as well as Green & Gold Soul, joined by dance group Emerald Desire, kept energies high as guests ambled along the walkway into Horizon Hall.
Mason School of Theater students (left to right) Kamy Satterfield, Sarah Stewart, Emma Harris, Lexi Carter, Aiden Breneman-Pennas, and Brett Womack join Renée Elise Goldsberry on stage during the evening's concert. Credit: Risdon Photography.
Inside Horizon Hall, Mason’s Computer Game Design program and Virginia Serious Game Institute created mini studios inside the Mason Innovation Exchange (MIX), where guests explored a change of scenery with actual reality and virtual reality headsets. Also in the MIX, the School of Art and Mason Exhibitions gave guests a chance to play with printing, personalizing a postcard they could take with them as a memento of their experience, while elsewhere in the space, Mason Computer Game Design and Mason Exhibitions invited visitors to play selections from the 2023 Progress@Play Competition and Master of Art in Teaching students demonstrated 3D printing. In addition to the buffet within Horizon, Mason Exhibition’s Metamorphosis, an exhibition created by Mason faculty, decorated the space and a Dewberry School of Music student played guitar in the seating area to round out the spectacular mood in the space.
After the showcases, guests transitioned to the Center for the Arts for a live Fund-A-Student Raise the Paddle event, which brought in more than $36,000 towards the total raised, prior to the performance by Renée Elise Goldsberry. Guests and concert-goers were also treated to Dewberry School of Music piano student Kai Shi and School of Music alumni flutist Eduardo Fajardo in a performance paired with personal anecdotes about the importance of student scholarships.
Capping off the evening, Renée Elise Goldsberry performed a concert culminating in multiple standing ovations, an explosive encore, and multiple sing-along moments from Hamilton fans in the exhilarated audience. Interspersed with personal anecdotes, Goldsberry emphasized the importance of student scholarships and love for young artists, noting that she started as one herself. For her final number of the evening, Goldsberry invited Mason School of Theater students Kamy Satterfield, Sarah Stewart, Emma Harris, Lexi Carter, Aiden Breneman-Pennas, and Brett Womack to join her on stage in a medley from the musical Rent. With tears and shining smiles, the students bowed with Goldsberry stepping back to gesture to the students with a proud expression on her face.
After the show, Goldsberry and Davis ended the night with a champagne toast on stage for donors, students, and George Mason faculty. Goldsberry reimagined Hamilton’s “Satisfied,” singing, “A toast to ARTS by George! and George Mason University. To the donors and the teachers who are always by your side. To the students and the hope that you provide, may you always be satisfied!"
ARTS by George! has raised more than $4.1 million since it began in 2006, with net proceeds going toward student scholarships and community arts programs.