Local political and business leaders support education foundation
by Karen Brune Mathis
Arts for Life! Celebration raised funds for young artists
Former Gov. Jeb Bush and his wife, Columba, hosted the Arts for Life! Celebration recently Downtown at the Museum of Contemporary Art.
About 115 Northeast Florida political and business leaders attended the May 21 event to donate to the cause.
Retired Ambassador John Rood chaired the benefit and State Sen. John Thrasher and Mayor John Peyton served as honorary co-chairs.
The host committee consisted of business and political leaders: Gary and Nancy Chartrand, Jay and Tammy Demetree, Marty Fiorentino, Jeanne Godwin, Mike Hightower, Bart Hudson, Russell and Joannie Newton, Roger O’Steen, Tom and Betty Petway, Bob and Peggy Rothman, Peter and Lee Ann Rummell, Rick and Jo Rumrell, Lee and Dorothy Thomas and Michael Ward.
The benefit assisted Florida’s young artists with scholarships.
The silent auction alone raised $9,000 for a signed, limited edition serigraph, “Children of the World,” by Romero Britto. Two students performed.
The foundation has not reported how much money was raised, but it is used to support the scholarship program.
Bush served as governor from 1999 to 2007, then launched the Foundation for Excellence in Education, based in Tallahassee. Bush chairs the foundation.
Columba Bush started Arts for Life! in 1999 and the organization has since awarded $276,000 in scholarships to 276 Florida high-school graduates with talents in creative writing, dance, drama, music and the visual arts.
Annually, the Arts for Life! program recognizes 25 graduating high school seniors from across Florida for outstanding achievement in the arts.
Since the start, 34 students from Northeast Florida were awarded scholarships, the foundation reports, including one this year.
Danielle Cheiken of Douglas Anderson School of the Arts will be awarded a scholarship in music at the awards luncheon June 25 in Tampa. About 500 applicants competed for the 25 $1,000 scholarships.
Following Jeb Bush’s terms as governor, the Arts for Life! program became administered by the nonprofit Foundation for Excellence in Education.
In 2008, Romero Britto became the program’s first artist-in-residence.
Bush told the crowd that students “are motivated through arts in general and do better across the board” when they participate in artistic pursuits.
“It matters that we support the arts,” he said.