On Sunday, August 7, the John E. Profant Foundation for the Arts hosted its 17th annual Fiesta Finale. There was a splendid tableau vivant, talented dance troupes and musicians, a gourmet three-course meal, and dancing. The event raises funds to support artists of all ages in Santa Barbara through scholarships, performances, and exhibits.
Since its inception in 2000, the Profant Foundation has awarded $275,000 in scholarships in the fields of art, music, dance, literature, and theater. Its mission is fueled by the belief that by supporting the lives of artists, they will enrich the lives of countless others. Funds are raised primarily through donations and the Fiesta Finale event.
John Profant was very active as a performer and supporter of the arts in Santa Barbara. His parents, Dr. Henry and Mabel Profant, were active in the cultural community here, helping to found the Community Arts Music Association. John’s wife, Lyn, and their four daughters, Marie, Musette, Michelle, and Mignonne, formed the foundation in honor of John.
The setting and timing of the event were quite fitting. John met Lyn at the historic El Paseo Restaurant during Fiesta in 1950 when he asked her to dance. El Paseo afforded a lovely, intimate setting for the 140 attendees at this sold-out event. Many supporters return year after year, so especially in this intimate setting, it felt more like a grand, private dinner party and show than a public fundraising event.
The Martinez Brothers provided instrumental Latin music during the cocktail hour, while guests, many clad in elegant Old Spanish Days attire, mingled, snacked on passed hors d’oeuvres, and danced.
The program commenced with a prayer by Father Larry Gosselin, and then Mignonne Profant introduced one of the event’s honorees, Joyce Shaar, and thanked her for her invaluable work for the foundation over the years. Shaar, in turn, recognized the other honorees and their contributions: Craig Case, Barbara Anderson, Dr. Herb and Mareva Barthels, the Wilkie Family, and the Henricks Family.
Guests dined on a gourmet three-course meal featuring a choice of a decadent filet mignon with bernaise sauce or a large, colorful shrimp salad plate. The legendary Gil Rosas delighted the audience with his piano music, as did two of this year’s scholarship recipients, Rhyan and Zeyn Shweyk, ages 11 and 12, respectively. The “Piano Brothers” have been playing classical piano since age 5 and composing since age 8, and are already teaching others.
The most magical part of the evening — and this was an evening with oh-so-many highlights — was where art came to life in the tableau vivant tradition. Participants slowly filtered onto the stage from the restaurant floor and from the balcony via the onstage staircase, and assumed positions on the stairs and stage to re-create a 1926 black-and-white photograph by J.W. Collinge, hand-tinted by Peggy Lindt. After posing for a few minutes in dignified stillness, the participants then came to life, playing string instruments to the early California tune of “Las Blancas Flores” and dancing to the delight of the audience.
The inspiration for this year’s tableau vivante came suddenly one day to Marie Profant. She had walked by the Collinge image every day for years in her family home, and then one day there was the “ah-ha moment,” where she “realized we can do that.” Marie shared how “a tableau vivant is not only a great way to make art and history come to life, but this is a tribute to those who keep our Santa Barbara traditions alive.” She was thrilled to have participating in the tableau vivant the granddaughter of one of the musicians in the painting, Teresa Terres, and Diana Vandervoort, who has been running Noches de Ronda for decades after her parents had run it for decades before that. Several other distinguished community members were also among the participants: David Bolton, Ricardo Chavez, Misuda Cohen, James Garcia, Erin Graffy de Garcia, Arleen Hurtado, Gabriela Martinez, Luis Moreno, Amanda Payatt, Richard Payatt, Thea Vandervoort, and Ben Woods.
Kristen and Serge Chmelnitzki, the new owners of the Arthur Murray Dance Studio, captivated the audience with vibrant paso doble and mambo performances. Ricardo Chavez and company brilliantly performed fiery flamenco pieces. Once again, the Profants carried on the family tradition of delivering a superb evening from start to finish.
For more information about the Profant Foundation, go to profantfoundation.org.
By Gail Arnold