Arts Society Serves through Scholarships, Great Performances
With the campus as the canvas, the Arts Society of Radford University provides the paintbrushes and the palette of colors for students to achieve their ambitions and dreams.
The Arts Society was formed during the 1989-90 academic year with the goal of providing scholarships for students in the College of Visual and Performing Arts (CVPA). Its first president was the late Kenneth Bondurant, an esteemed benefactor and advocate for the arts.
The organization “is for our students in the fine arts, dance, music, and interior design and fashion,” said Kathleen Harshberger ’80, CVPA director of advancement. “Apart from the fact that it supports exceptional, deserving and talented students, the Arts Society also brings world class performances to Radford University — it brings students’ dreams to fruition.”
What started with about 30 members has more than tripled its ranks over the last two decades and now comprises more than 100 alumni, faculty, arts patrons and community supporters. The Radford Arts Society Leadership Committee leads the effort to recruit members, raise arts awareness and find funding opportunities.
Despite not being an alumnus of Radford, Johann Norstedt has been an avid supporter of the local arts community since moving to Blacksburg nearly 40 years ago. He believes his membership in the
Radford Arts Society is a natural fit.
“One really special thing about being in the Arts Society has been the opportunity to meet some wonderfully talented students,” said Norstedt, a 12-year society member. After retiring as head of the English Department at Virginia Tech, he said, he missed the creative fervor he so often experienced throughout his lifetime of teaching. Joining the Radford Arts Society helped reawaken his passion and energy.
“There is something very gratifying at seeing young people preparing for a lifetime of artistic activity,” Norstedt said. “They seem to know full well that it might not make them rich, but it will make them happy.”
A 1980 alumna of the Radford theater program, Harshberger shares that same passion for the arts with her husband, Richard, vice mayor of the city of Radford. Both have been members of the society from its inception.
Harshberger, who also serves on the leadership committee, credits CVPA Dean Joseph Scartelli with the initial efforts and perseverance that launched the Arts Society. “Dr. Scartelli was instrumental in creating a support organization that would help raise money for art scholarships,” she said.
When Scartelli recalls performances on Radford’s campus through the years — most offered to the university community free of charge — he is hard pressed to choose his favorite one.
“We have had some of the biggest names in jazz here and the biggest names in dance, such as Alvin Ailey, Martha Graham, Bill T. Jones,” Scartelli said, “along with ballet companies and orchestras from around the world. I would have to say that the whole two decades stand out for me because it is such a privilege to bring this element to Radford.”
Procuring top-flight performances, however, tells only part of the story. “The more important fact is that the Arts Society took the CVPA from a place where it offered only one or two $500 scholarships in the entire college to now offering more than 80 scholarships a year totaling well over $100,000,” Scartelli said. “These scholarships have supported hundreds upon hundreds of students who earned these competitive awards through intensely hard work in their respective art, in addition to maintaining their impressive academic records.”
“When one understands the contributions these students make while here at RU and what they ultimately go on to do after graduation, those affiliated with the Arts Society can look back and know they made a difference,” Scartelli said. “The fact that we are able to do it through enriching the campus and the community at large with these incredible performances and performers is a truly wonderful added benefit.”