Art gifts

Gadsden Art Museum hosts Jazz Night

Jazz singer Marlowe Sheppard performs at Night of Jazz in 2020.

By Katie Bohannon, news editor

A beloved and highly anticipated community event resurfaces within days. On Friday, April 23 at 6:00 p.m., the Gadsden Museum of Art welcomes the public to its delightful annual Night of Jazz fundraiser, with proceeds dedicated to the institution investing diligently in its local arts community.

Night of Jazz was born in 2014, with the museum’s former curator coordinating the fundraising theme with a corresponding exhibition highlighting the art of jazz music. Designed to provide an entertaining and relaxed evening for guests to socialize and explore all that GMA has to offer, Night of Jazz generates an impressive turnout each year as crowds flock to 515 Broad Street to experience what the night entails.

This year’s BYOB event features jazz singer Marlowe Sheppard and his quintet, hosted by local musician and business owner Arnold Montgomery, which includes artists from across Alabama and surrounding states. While tapping their feet to the sound of music, guests can enjoy an appetizing dinner at Italian cafe Tre Regazzi, with gluten-free options available. Visitors can participate in both a silent auction for donated artworks and a scavenger hunt leading groups through all the galleries, seeing the unique artworks on display and winning the chance to win gift cards in the process.

“It’s great music, but it’s low-key enough for you to talk and socialize,” said GMA curator Ray Wetzel. “It’s not overwhelming. Night of Jazz is awesome – it showcases a variety of different sides and viewpoints in art, and it’s validation of all the hard work we do. Seeing how many people usually come to have fun is rewarding.

GMA Education and Outreach Coordinator Jill Edwards shared that artwork created by local students accompanies the other exhibits featured during Night of Jazz. She shared that this design turned out to be intentional, as the museum chose to host children’s artwork to demonstrate to the community its support for the arts in school systems as a valid and essential part of education.

“By hosting our children’s art exhibit, we all attend to see how important art is in schools,” Edwards said. “Curricula now encourage students to be creative and think outside the box; to think and use their creative minds. You see this in how STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) became STEAM [to incorporate the arts]. Even if you are a math student, you can benefit from a strong foundation in art because it teaches you to think creatively and use your mind in innovative ways.

Wetzel reminisced about perhaps his most memorable jazz night, which came just a week after he was hired as director. As Wetzel worked diligently around the clock to find a band, organize catering and stage the massive event, he recognized the night as a milestone in his career – a first small triumph and a collaborative success.

Wetzel and Edwards encouraged the community to experience Night of Jazz for themselves, which they exemplified as a night everyone can enjoy, not just a niche crowd. The coworking pair showed how Night of Jazz encapsulates the museum’s mission and reiterates the rare treasure that Gadsden holds in its cultural and artistic communities – and how these communities influence and affect the quality of life in Etowah County.

“For a town the size of Gadsden, we’re incredibly lucky to have what we have,” Wetzel said. “We were one of the first city services to open (after the pandemic closures) which is not essential as people wanted to get out of their homes and have safe experiences. Museums promote a better quality of life, giving people the chance to see something they don’t see every day. At GMA we balance our program with contemporary and traditional exhibits – if you come and don’t like the show, come back in six weeks and we’ll have something different. Night of Jazz is another experience we offer…it’s for everyone.