University of Florida officials are closely monitoring updates related to COVID-19. More Information

In the Loop
Friends and Giving : Oct 16, 2020

Patrons’ generosity persists despite canceled benefit gala

Splendor 2020 raises $60,000

By Emma Friedman (BFA Theatre Performance ‘22)

Splendor 2020 was supposed to be the “cat’s meow” of an event with Gainesville’s artistic community traveling back in time to the Roaring Twenties. Instead, it looked more like a night at home, dressed in pajamas instead of flapper dresses, watching Netflix during the first two weeks of quarantine. 

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the College of the Arts annual fundraising event was canceled. However, thanks to the overwhelming generosity of loyal donors, patrons, and the Gainesville artistic community, the College of the Arts raised $60,000 for the School of Music and School of Theatre and Dance. The funding helps support student scholarships, student travel and research, master classes, and needed equipment. 

“Because of our supporters, our students will have the critical support they need to embrace this unprecedented semester with even more encouragement and hope,” Director of Advancement Lula Dawit says. 

An overwhelming majority of Splendor sponsors—47 people and organizations—chose to honor their initial pledge, and donate the entirety of their sponsorship amount to the schools, and an additional 17 ticket-holders donated the cost of their ticket, despite the lack of a physical event.

“My fellow Friends and I were so energized going into Splendor 2020 and looking forward to a spectacular fete,” says Andrea Williams, president of the Friends of Music. “But of course, the pandemic exploded only weeks before and COTA made the difficult and entirely correct decision to cancel the event. We're so grateful that the support of our wonderful donors and contributors never faltered.” 

Splendor is annually hosted by the Friends of Music and Friends of Theatre and Dance, volunteer organizations that support the two schools. In recent years, the benefit gala took place in the Nadine McGuire Theatre and Dance Pavilion and featured a silent auction, entertainment showcasing student performances, and dancing. 

The question remains: What will the future of Splendor look like? The College of the Arts Advancement team and Friends organizations are partnering with the college’s Digital Worlds Institute to create an entirely virtual fundraising event for the next year.

“Throughout history, we have watched as society and culture has informed and dictated the present day moment,” says Nell Page, president of the Friends of Theatre and Dance. “The world is shifting, and we must change and adjust accordingly. So, how do we move forward? I believe that to move forward as we were, is actually moving backward. Instead, we must reinvent what it looks like in the moment, and in this moment technology is being used as a transformative, present, and engaging medium.” 

Designers at Digital Worlds are working to create an immersive, interactive, and cutting-edge experience that showcases the college and its students. 

“We're gearing up for an exciting virtual Splendor 2021 that will enable us to reach even more people and extend the celebration beyond Gainesville and the surrounding area,” Williams says. “The unique virtual platform, through partnership with Digital Worlds, provides the means to feature even more student performances and highlight their incredible work in an interactive setting that connects our multiple small physical 'parties', ensuring everyone's safety and sense of comfort. We can't wait!”

Splendor 2021 is scheduled for April 10, 2021, and will revive the theme “Roaring Twenties.” 

“Raising awareness for the College of the Arts, as well as educating the public on comprehensive art forms is what Splendor is all about,” Page says. “Splendor is special because it is an event that actually showcases the talent of our students. Audiences get to revel in the impact and experience the beauty of theatre. We highlight the talent and vision of the faculty and the students. In times of uncertainty, it is more important than ever for stories to continue to be told.”

Mark your calendars for April 10, and join us as we travel back to the Jazz Age for a Roaring Twenties Splendor, COVID-19 safe edition.


Download the Splendor 2020 program, featuring letters from the dean and school directors, stories of excellence and resilience, and the many supporters of this year. 

For more information about Splendor 2021 or how to get involved with the Friends of Music or Friends of Theatre and Dance, contact Lillian Dompe.