Thea raises $2 million, Windgate adds another $500,000 | Rock Candy

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Thea raises $2 million, Windgate adds another $500,000

Posted By on Thu, Jul 23, 2015 at 1:39 PM

Tireless advocate for arts in education Paul Leopoulou
click to enlarge John Brown, Thea Foundation board president Gayla Jungmeyer, Paul Leopoulos and Linda Leopoulos with the $500,000 check presented by Brown.
  • John Brown, Thea Foundation board president Gayla Jungmeyer, Paul Leopoulos and Linda Leopoulos with the $500,000 check presented by Brown.
announced yesterday that the Thea Foundation has raised $2 million over the past two years to endow its scholarships for high school seniors, money that will allow Thea to focus its fund-raising efforts on its other educational programs.

Because Thea reached its goal, the Windgate Foundation of Siloam Springs awarded it another $500,000 for operating funds. Windgate, which provides numerous grants to arts organizations, has provided crucial support to Thea's A+ Arts Education initiative that uses the arts to teach across the curriculum, and John Brown, Windgate's director, presenting the check yesterday, called Leopoulos a great "evangelist," spreading the word on how art provides a pathway to learning math, science and literature. 

Thea has awarded 380 scholarships worth $2 million since 2002, awards that are leveraged by state colleges and universities several times over. (For example, the University of Arkansas at Little Rock matches Thea scholarships 7 to 1, so a Thea winner of $2,000 will receive another $14,000 from UALR, Leopoulos said.) Leopoulos described the scholarships as "inclusive": you don't have to have a certain grade point average and you don't have to use the scholarship to pursue a degree in the arts. The foundation awards 30 scholarships a year up to $4,000, and Leopoulos said he is eager to add to the scholarships. "We see the need out there," he said, adding that he is a "very impatient man" who wants to see the program continue apace.

Alex Zhang — one of the Arkansas Times' 2014 Academic All Stars — was among the scholarship winners in attendance at Thea's announcement yesterday and that's Zhang delivering a poem at Thea in the video above. In a video made at Thea's fundraiser "Into the Blue" held earlier this year at the Clinton Presidential Center, Zhang asked the audience, "What is art if not possibility? What is poetry if not the Scripture of life? Song if not God's breath in our lungs? Dance if not the fireworks of the body? What is Thea if not a super nova? If not the opening of a thousand galaxies in a child's heart, if not, for many people like me, the first glimpse into infinity?" Zhang is now a student at Yale University.

Paul and his wife, Linda Leopoulos, have poured heart and soul into their foundation, which honors their late daughter, Thea, whose exploration of the arts in high school gave her the confidence to succeed in subjects she formerly found daunting. The arts, Paul Leopoulos said, "generate civility, create and explain culture, create calmness that fosters peace and warms hearts and souls." The foundation has also provided schools across the state with $2.5 million in art supplies, thanks to contributions from companies. 

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