Motown fund-raiser hits the Cultural Plaza


Published: Saturday, January 14, 2006 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Friday, January 13, 2006 at 10:38 p.m.
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Rebecca Nagy, director of the Harn Museum of Art, left, Doug Jones, director of the Florida Museum and Michael Blachly, director of the University of Florida Performing Arts, pose at the Phillips Center. The trio are involved in the Jan. 21 Motown-themed fund-raiser to benefit the University of Florida Cultural Plaza.

JARRETT BAKER/SPECIAL TO THE SUN

Facts

Motown is Jan. 21

What: Motown, the third annual fund-raising gala for the University of Florida Cultural Plaza
Where: UF Cultural Plaza, corner of 34th Street and Hull Road
When: 5:30 p.m. Jan. 21; The Funk Brothers perform at 8:30 p.m. at the Phillips Center
Cost: $150 for cocktails, dinner buffet and concert; $30 for concert only
For more information: Visit www.plazaparty.uff.ufl.edu; for tickets, call 846-3647

Marvin Gaye heard it through the grapevine. The Four Tops couldn't help themselves. And it really got a hold on Smokey Robinson & The Miracles.
Motown, the soulful African-American music made popular in the 1960s, is back, and it's coming to Gainesville on Jan 21.
It's the theme for the third annual fund-raising gala at the University of Florida Cultural Plaza, home of the Phillips Center for Performing Arts, the Florida Museum of Natural History and the Harn Museum of Art. The event culminates with a concert at the Phillips Center by The Funk Brothers, the house band that played for such Motown stars as Gaye, The Four Tops and The Miracles, among many others.
The event's proceeds will be split evenly among the three institutions to help fund educational and public programs, which encompass everything from lectures at the Harn, to a summertime Discovery Room at the Florida Museum, to discount student tickets at the Phillips Center.
Without the fund-raiser's revenue, which last year equalled about $30,000 for each institution, the Florida Museum "would be a much duller place," says Doug Jones, the museum's director.
The event isn't just about raising money, however. Harn Director Rebecca Nagy sees it as an opportunity to attract new visitors to her museum and to increase visibility of the Cultural Plaza.
"We also think of this very much as a friend-raiser," Nagy says. "We're reaching out to new audiences and bringing new friends in."
Each year's different musical theme - last year's was the British Invasion - helps attract different people, Nagy says.
The Funk Brothers - bassist Bob Babbitt, guitarist Eddie Willis and drummer Uriel Jones - are part of a group of musicians that appeared on more No. 1 records than The Beatles, The Beach Boys, the Rolling Stones and Elvis Presley combined.
"They are the group that was really the musical background of Motown," says Michael Blachly, director of UF Performing Arts. Their sound lives on in today's hip-hop, rap and R&B artists, Blachly says.
"There's a direct line back to them," he says. "They're the creators."
The Funk Brothers reunited for "Standing in the Shadows of Motown," a film that propelled them into the spotlight when it won two Grammy Awards in 2003.
"Authenticity is something that's very important to us," Jones says.
Tickets for the black-tie optional, Motown-attire-welcome event cost $150, which includes cocktails and a buffet dinner served at both museums. Concert-only tickets are available for $30. About 600 people attended last year's event, and organizers hope for that many or more this year.
"The success of last year has definitely inspired us and provided energy for this year," says Ilene Silverman, president of the Florida Museum Associates Board and the event's co-chair. "I felt we really set a standard."
Nagy looks forward to getting out the word about the Cultural Plaza.
"This is a real cultural mecca over here," she says.
Sarah L. Stewart can be reached at 338-3103 or sarah.stewart@gvillesun.com.

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