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Celebrating 25 years of the Arts Society

Arts Society Logo

The Arts Society of the Radford University College of Visual and Performing Arts has something important to celebrate this year. It is more than gathering for a reception before the anticipated concert by the legendary jazz pianist Chick Corea. It is more than another year of providing scholarships to worthy arts students. It is the silver anniversary of the Society.

As the Society celebrates their 25th anniversary, it is time to reflect back on the organization’s history. This is indelibly tied to the dean of the CVPA, Dr. Joe Scartelli.

The Arts Society’s mission is to support creativity, award winning talent, performances, community outreach and student scholarship. But its origins began with the idea of hosting a social event to attract people from the community as well as the campus before a New York City Opera Company’s performance of “La Boheme” here at RU.

Scartelli was just in his first year as dean and realized that the opera was significantly larger in scope than most of what had previously been brought in for the college performance series. “La Boheme” was the perfect way to engage both the campus and the regional community.


"We realized that we had a ‘product’ that reflected the culture and quality of the CVPA..."


He approached Mr. Robert Murrin, director of the RU Foundation at that time, with the social event idea and that flourished into a black tie-optional affair with a full, formal dinner, speech, and extras such as valet parking. The performance had an almost full-house and the response from those who attended the dinner/performance was well above anything Scartelli and the foundation expected.

This precipitated a meeting with the assistant director of the Foundation and in one meeting the Art Society organization was constructed.

“We realized that we had a ‘product’ that reflected the culture and quality of the CVPA from which we could begin a fundraising structure that would support the development of scholarships and scholarship endowments. This was critical because almost none existed at that time,” says Scartelli.

At that first meeting it was decided that prominent members of the community and campus should be recruited to serve on a leadership board. These people would need to be supportive of the goal to create a configuration that would attract and build a strong scholarship base for visual and performing arts students.  

This was more easily accomplished than he expected. From a group of very enthusiastic individuals, Mr. Ken Bondurant was asked to serve as the chair of the Arts Society Leadership Committee. Bondurant agreed and was active in the group for many years until an illness curtailed his participating. He related to the arts as both a musician and an artist. He was also a respected businessman that certainly helped the cause of supporting the arts at RU.

To Scartelli, his enthusiasm was inspiring and reinforced the notion that the efforts involved with the Art Society were extremely important and the right thing support and nurture as a dean.

“My relationship with Ken remains one of the most important highlights of my career as dean. We have had wonderful and excellent leadership since Ken’s passing, but every student who has, and who will receive support from the scholarships raised through the Arts Society should be aware of Ken’s work and involvement without which, much of these scholarships may not exist. I believe his spirit is part of their success,” Scartelli professes about Bondurant.

In thinking about challenges the dean faced in his role with the Society, Scartelli reflects, “I did feel somewhat of an unexpected pressure to continue to bring notable performances to RU with limited resources.  However, early support from a variety of sources assisted in that endeavor, permitting us to attract major names in orchestras, opera companies, dance and jazz…some of the biggest names in the industry.”

Such performances fueled the work and enthusiasm of the Arts Society committee as well as the CVPA’s department chairs and many faculty members. The results of the Society were fairly immediate in terms of attracting and subsequently awarding scholarship dollars to the CVPA students.
Other complicated tasks Scartelli faced involved planning the pre-performance receptions and dinners. These were alleviated at that time by assistance from the Development and Foundation staff in a coordinated effort. This attracted and cultivated new friends and donors to the arts.

It was at those events that the Society started the practice of inviting scholarship students to attend the dinners and meet those who were instrumental in creating the scholarship or endowment from which they were benefiting.  

Scartelli says, “This was a significant practice as all of these students were extraordinarily impressive (as they still are today) and would reinforce the ‘investment’ decision the donors had made. Going back to the role of the Office of Development and the Foundation...it was the success of that partnership that solidified the momentum we enjoyed.”

The Arts Society remains a solid organization in its present state. Years of outstanding leadership have been an important factor. Subsequent chairs of the committee after Bondurant were Mr. Greg Rooker, Dr. Rosalyn Lester and current chair Dr. Myrl Jones. Each of these individuals gave, and continue to give an enormous amount of energy, expertise, leadership and passion for RU’s efforts in the arts and for the education of all the students in the CVPA.

The cumulative result of the Arts Society goals and efforts is the increase in scholarships for the college. What started out as two scholarships is now expected to exceed over 100 in varying amounts totaling approximately $110,000 of support annually.

To join, donate or learn more about the RU Art Society, visit http://www.radford.edu/content/cvpa/home/support/arts-society.html.


Apr 14, 2014

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