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Wednesday, December 3,2008

Better recognize

Arts Council acknowledges contributions to culture

by Eric Gallippo
Talk to the head of any local arts organization for a while and they’ll tell you it’s hard to find good help when it comes to keeping Michigan’s capital cultured.

So when an individual or organization goes out of its way to put time, effort and money on the line for the arts, you can bet it’s appreciated. On Tuesday night, the Arts Council of Greater Lansing was set to recognize those who have made significant contributions to the arts with its 29th Holiday Glitter Gala.

The winners of this year’s Applause Award for an “outstanding individual” were Kevin and Lauri Draggoo, of East Lansing. Sharon Ellis, a member of the Arts Council’s board of directors and longtime friend of the Draggoos, nominated the couple, citing their support for the Lansing Symphony, Wharton Center, the Arts Council, Lansing Art Gallery and on.

“They just are involved in a very visible way in the arts community,” Ellis said.

While all arts organizations need people to write checks, Ellis said there is a real appreciation for those who show up, volunteer and participate. “They are not just supporters, but enjoyers of the arts,” she said. “They truly believe and enjoy the arts in our community, as well as knowing the importance of the arts and supporting it with their checkbook.

“Kevin and Lauri are examples of people who are very busy and probably would like to stay home and kind of kick back in the evenings, yet they are out there at many events and performances.”

Ellis said the Draggoo’s two children, now in college, were members of the East Lansing High School band. The Draggoos were active as band parents.

The night’s other winner was Michigan State University Federal Credit Union, which was awarded the Business-Art Award.

Courtney Milbrook, assistant director of development at the Wharton Center, which nominated the credit union, said it was an obvious choice because of the support it has offered to Wharton Center over the years. The credit union has sponsored the Broadway at Wharton series and it recently made a donation to the Arts and Creativity Institute at Wharton, which, Milbrook said, “wouldn’t exist without their support.”

Last May, the Wharton Center announced the creation of the MSU Federal Credit Union Institute for Arts & Creativity at the Wharton Center, with a $2.25 million endowment from the credit union. The institute will include and expand on all of Wharton Center’s educational offerings.

The credit union has also helped the Wharton Center get the word out about its Broadway shows by sending e-mail flyers to its 25,000 members for upcoming performances, including special offers.

Milbrook said the leadership at the credit union, including President and C.E.O. Patrick M. McPharlin and the entire board of directors has shown support for the arts.

In addition to its donations to the Wharton Center, Milbrook said, the credit union has provided funding to the MSU Museum, East Lansing Arts Festival, Kresge Art Museum and WKAR. Employees have also been encouraged to volunteer at cultural and community events throughout the year. Milbrook said the credit union also sought work by Michigan artists for its new corporate headquarters.

“They’re a real leader for setting the bar for other organizations to support the arts,” Milbrook said. “They’ve been really supportive to a number of organizations.”

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