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Sugar Land Cultural Arts Foundation 2016 Founders Ball

(L-R): Gala honorary chair Pat Hebert; the special honoree of the evening and founding member of the SLCAF Don Smithers; gala chair Farrah Gandhi; gala signature sponsor Don Kerstetter; and gala chair Himesh Gandhi.

(L-R): Gala honorary chair Pat Hebert; the special honoree of the evening and founding member of the SLCAF Don Smithers; gala chair Farrah Gandhi; gala signature sponsor Don Kerstetter; and gala chair Himesh Gandhi.

BIG WIGS ~ A Night of Entertainment

Sugar Land Cultural Arts Foundation (SLCAF) and Classic Chevrolet have announced the 2016 Founders Ball will be held at Safari Texas on Jan. 23. This year’s theme will be BIG WIGS ~ A Night of Entertainment and is guaranteed to be an evening of BIG entertainment and BIG fun. Inspiration Stage, SLCAF’s partner, will provide the first class entertainment for the evening with a brand new Broadway-inspired musical performance that is sure to be the toast of the town!

SLCAF was founded in 1999 with the objective of promoting the arts and preserving, renovating and restoring the historic Sugar Land Auditorium. The 394-seat auditorium has been fully restored and upgraded and is now the venue of many delightful performances. The historic landmark is an original auditorium to Lakeview Elementary school in ‘Old’ Sugar Land located in the heart of the Imperial Sugar original homes for employees known as ‘The Hill.” These homes were built by Imperial Sugar for the employees and their families. Billy Stritch calls the area ‘home’ and has said the Sugar Land Auditorium stage was the location of his first ever performance.

Sugar Land Auditorium

The mission of SLCAF includes the preservation of the history of Sugar Land and the promotion of the arts. Although the restoration of the auditorium is nearing completion, the arts are a key component to the efforts of the organization. Don Kerstetter, owner of Classic Chevrolet and lover of the arts, said, “In my view, SLCAF provides a bridge from past to present to the future of our lovely community. The City of Sugar Land has a unique story filled with wonderful history, places and people. SLCAF for me is a reflection of the home town charm of Sugar Land, combined with an artistic sense second to none. From the preservation of architectural landmarks and culture to the celebration of its finest citizens, art and music, SLCAF provides a firm foundation to move our city forward with a strong focus on the future.

Inspiration Stage

The primary tenant for SLCAF’s treasured Sugar Land Auditorium, Inspiration Stage, is a Fort Bend County performing arts studio and theatre dedicated to empowering and encouraging students from ages 4 to 18. As artistic director of Inspiration Stage, Mandy Seymore-Sensat choreographs, directs and manages the programs at the Sugar Land Auditorium. Broadway hits for both children and adults have included the hilarious The Producers and the majestic The Lion King to name a few of the captivating performances provided by Inspiration Stage and performed at the Sugar Land Auditorium.

Seymore-Sensat and Inspiration Stage will combine these talents and captivating story-telling abilities to create the entertainment for the Founders Ball. Although the exact play list is top secret, the examples of Inspiration Stage’s past performances inspire curiosity for the evening surrounding BIG WIGS.

Gala Honorees

This year’s gala honorees are Don and the late Merle Smithers, a couple who have been a part of the Sugar Land Cultural Arts Foundation from the beginning, even before its current status as a nonprofit organization. Don and Merle lived in Sugar Land for many years and contributed to the community in the ways that they knew best. Don was a City Council member for the City of Sugar Land and Merle, a lover of history, found her place on the team working to preserve the Lakeview Auditorium. When asked about SLCAF and his participation, Don said, “This was really Merle’s passion that came from her interest in the history and the preservation of ‘the old things’. I was drawn in by her enthusiasm…I couldn’t say no.”

Their fundraising efforts began with May Fest at the Lakeview Elementary school where Don said he believed they raised about $100. They moved on to Ice Cream Socials that raised about $300 and then to a gala where they raised several thousand dollars to help with the refurbishment of the auditorium. Don is proud of the success of the organization, stating, “ We started small, but kept working toward the goal. Now phases one and two of the auditorium are complete, and we have raised over $1,000,000 to date.”

Merle Smithers has passed away, but her memory lives on in her devoted husband as well as in her founding contribution to the Sugar Land Cultural Arts Foundation. Don continues to support the foundation in the community and spends his time with his children traveling the state participating in chili competitions, and more often than not, placing in the top three.


Don Kerstetter of Classic Chevrolet has always been a generous supporter of SLCAF. He said, “I continue to lend support to SLCAF because I believe in their mission to preserve the unique culture of a very special community. While it is always important to concentrate on the economic health of our community, we must also focus day after day and year after year on the beautiful artistic soul of Sugar Land. I am continually amazed and grateful when I reflect on just what a terrific job SLCAF does providing us all the framework to let our imagination and hearts soar through its commitment to the arts. It makes me very happy to play a small part in an organization that so exquisitely represents the vital heart of our community.”

The Founders Ball boasts Pat Hebert as the honorary chair of the evening while Himesh and Farrah Gandhi are co-chairs. Proceeds will benefit SLCAF’s goals, which include continued improvements to the Sugar Land Auditorium, the city’s oldest public space, and the continued support of the arts in Sugar Land.

SLCAF is currently accepting sponsorships for the event at varying levels, while tables for 10 and individual tickets are also available for purchase. For tickets and more information, call 281-313-0752 or contact Farrah Gandhi at info@slcaf.org.

The Inspiration Stage performance of The Lion King.

The Inspiration Stage performance of The Lion King.

The Sugar Land Auditorium.

The Sugar Land Auditorium.

Merle and Don Smithers, founding members of the Sugar Land Cultural Arts Foundation.

Merle and Don Smithers, founding members of the Sugar Land Cultural Arts Foundation.

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