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The art of the dance
The annual Latin Gala at the Quinlan Visual Arts Center helps kids attend art camps
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The Latin Gala, which takes place Oct. 3 at the Quinlan Visual Arts Center in Gainesville, helps raise money for art students to attend summer art camps. This student participated in the "Art of Nature" camp last year, with help from money raised at the event.

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LeTrell Simpson, vice chairwoman of the Gainesville Multicultural Committee, talks about the origins of the annual Latin Gala.

Want to add some spice to your fall Friday?

The Quinlan Visual Arts Center and the Gainesville Multicultural Committee plan to hold the Latin Gala from 8 p.m. to midnight on Oct. 3.

The event will feature music, food and Latin dances, with proceeds going toward Quinlan Art Camp scholarships for disadvantaged youth.

"It's just a really fun night," said Amanda Kroll, assistant director of the arts center at 514 Green St. "It's a celebration of the diversity of our community in such a way that it benefits children.

"And you're surrounded by music and there's artwork - I just can't think of a better way to spend a Friday night."

Ticket prices are $50 per person and include dance lessons featuring the salsa, merengue and bolero. The lessons are set for 7:30-8:30 p.m. Thursday at the Quinlan. The center also held lessons last Thursday.

Don't worry, though, if you weren't able to get a leg up - so to speak - from the dance lessons.

"I think most people get very festive and they have a very good time," Kroll said. "You can learn on the spot, and the dance teachers will be there, too."

Knowing the dance steps will help those vying to win the event's dance contest, however.

Atlanta band Rumba Habana will provide the music and Luna's restaurant in Gainesville will supply the tapas, or Spanish appetizers.

The gala has its roots in an effort started by Enrique Montiel, chairman of the multicultural committee, according to the group's vice chairwoman, LeTrell Simpson. Montiel, who is in Europe until next week, couldn't be reached for comment.

"When he came to Gainesville to work for Merial Select, one of the first things that he got interested in was the fact that he felt like there was a tremendous lack of showcasing the benefits of our diversity, as opposed to always looking at the negatives," Simpson said.

Montiel worked to start up the multicultural committee, which sponsored a number of events, beginning with a gala at the Georgia Mountains Center. The committee also organizes the annual "Christmas is One Language" concert that "tries to show the diversity of our community in a very positive way," Simpson said.

The committee and the Quinlan have worked together the past two years on the Latin Gala, which was Montiel's brainchild.

"The first two we had (were) very successful," Simpson said. "Both years that we've done it, we've been able to send around 25 children (each year) to art camp."

She said event organizers "don't set a goal for the number of scholarships, but we're shooting for a goal of 200 people to attend."

As for the scholarships, area elementary school art teachers help identify students "who have a real interest in art, but, based on their knowledge, would be children who would not have the opportunity to go," Simpson said.
Kroll described the camp scholarships as "the gift that keeps on giving."

The camps, broken down into two-week sessions for children ages 5 to 14, are held throughout the summer, she said.
Each session has a theme, "usually having something to do with the exhibition we have going on (at the time)," Kroll said.

"One year, we did all recycled art. We did art inspired by nature," she said.

"We do things to challenge the children and to look at art in a different way. It's different from what they get in their art classes."

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