The Virginia Avenue Project, a free Santa Monica-based after-school arts program, will celebrate its 18th anniversary with their annual Inspiration Gala, this year named the “Power of the Pencil,” on Oct. 18, at Casa del Mar.

The evening includes dinner and also features both a silent and live auction with gifts from Saks Fifth Avenue, the Montage Hotel, the Trump National Golf Club and more.

For this year’s gala, the project will honor their participating students as well as recognizing four leaders in the community who have shown ongoing support for the project’s role in bringing arts education to students.

The local leaders are Shoshana and Wayne S. Blank, developers of the Bergamot Station Arts Center and the Shoshana Wayne Gallery; Barbara Jacobs, COO of the Edison; and Blake Mycoskie, founder and chief shoe giver of TOMS Shoes.

Jonathan Gold of the L.A. Weekly and KCRW’s Good Food will be the night’s special guest and will draw the winning ticket in the “5 for 52” raffle — where the lucky winner will receive a free dinner each week at Los Angeles restaurants.

The Virginia Avenue Project was founded in 1992 by Leigh Curran as a program committed to helping area children think creatively, critically and confidently about their lives. The project has shown success in helping the area’s kids by combining the performing arts with long-term, one-on-one mentoring to help kids discover their full potential. Through a sequence of writing and performing programs, over 350 project kids develop life skills and give voice to their creativity each year.

The project’s children start with the program as young as 6 and stay through high school. Since the project’s inception 18 years ago, 100 percent of participants have graduated from high school, 95 percent have gone on to college and 98 percent are the first in the families to do so.

Daily Press

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