On August 5, the John E. Profant Foundation for the Arts hosted its 19th annual Fiesta Finale, an entertaining event held in the intimate setting of El Paseo restaurant. The foundation raises funds for arts scholarships for Santa Barbara County residents of all ages.
A sold-out crowd of about 175 guests, most clad in Fiesta attire, mingled and danced during the lively reception to music by the Martinez Brothers. Then Mignonne Profant, one of the family foundation’s founders, invited everyone to be seated for the three-course meal. During and after the meal, guests were entertained by several performers, including the talented scholarship recipients the SB Piano Boys, Rhyan Shweyk, 12, and Zeyn Shweyk, 13, who performed a piano duet. They have been playing classical piano since age 5 and composing since age 8 and are already teaching others.
A show highlight was State Street Ballet’s Leila Drake and James Folsom beautifully performing part of an original composition by Drake’s husband, artist and composer Chris Fossek. Another was a “Tableau Vivant” featuring Arthur Murray Dance Studio owners Kristen & Serge Chmelnitzki along with Heidi Gielisch and Peter Jensen-Sabol. They and others filtered onto the stage to recreate the poster from the 1947 film Fiesta starring Ricardo Montalban and Esther Williams. After pausing for the audience to absorb the recreated artwork, the art came to life with the figures emerging in dance form, giving a brilliant paso doble and salsa medley performance.
The Profants presented Michelangelo Awards to event co-chair Julie Ann Brown for her hard work this year and to Dana Hansen for her work over many years.
The Chmelnitzkis also gave an enchanting bolero performance, and Gielisch and Jensen-Sabol did a crowd-pleasing cha-cha number. Ricardo Chavez and Company provided authentic and dramatic flamenco performances, Gil Rosas charmed the audience with melodies of Fiesta, and the Martinez Brothers returned after the show with their popular dance music.
The Profant Foundation supports artists of all ages in Santa Barbara County through scholarships. It hosts the Annual Fiesta Finale and other occasional performances and acts as matchmaker for artists and those seeking artists. In recent years, the foundation has awarded about $25,000 each year in scholarships to musicians, dancers, actors, visual artists, and writers. Its mission is fueled by the belief that by supporting the lives of artists, these artists will enrich the lives of countless others.
John Profant was very active as a performer and supporter of the arts in Santa Barbara. His parents, Dr. Henry and Mabel Profant, were also active in the cultural community here, helping to found the Community Arts Music Association. The foundation was formed by John’s four daughters, Marie, Musette, Mignonne, and Michèle, and their mother Lyn, in honor of John. The event is held in El Paseo at the end of Fiesta because John met Lyn during Fiesta in 1950 at the restaurant, when he asked her to dance. It is the perfect setting for this entertaining evening.
For more information about the Profant Foundation, go to profantfoundation.org.
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By Gail Arnold