First Night lives on through Arts & Culture Fund donation

Although First Night of Williamsburg recently ended its annual New Year’s Eve celebration after 24 years, its organizers will continue to support art in the city through a $12,584 donation to the Williamsburg Community Foundation’s Arts & Culture Fund.

Last month, members of First Night’s Board of Directors donated the group’s final proceeds to the city’s arts fund, which Foundation representative Ginny Gasink says “will support competitive grants to the local community for a variety of programs.”

“We are so grateful to First Night for entrusting the Foundation with this contribution,” said Nancy Sullivan, executive director of the Williamsburg Community Foundation. “Because of this, the Foundation will be able to continue First Night’s legacy of bringing wonderful music and art to so many in our community.”

Since its inception in 1992, First Night attracted some 125,000 people to downtown Williamsburg, where event-goers could enjoy fireworks displays and live performances. Financial woes, a lack of city funding and a decrease in interest from volunteers to organize the event led to a cancellation announcement last July by the event’s co-chairmen, Chris Odle and John Michael.

The Williamsburg Community Foundation aims to “build community-wide cultural vibrancy” and support local non-profits with a focus on the arts through its Arts & Culture Fund. In the past, the fund has allowed grant recipients to hold free performances and art displays in public locations, discount ticket prices to their events and fund staff and volunteer training, according to a news release.

Past Arts & Culture Fund grantees include the Virginia Regional Ballet, which used the award to develop and implement a ballet course for special needs students. The Williamsburg Community Foundation has also used its arts and culture funds to sponsor theater workshops at the city’s StageLights Theatre for Children and music workshops and William and Mary, and to support performances by the Williamsburg Symphony Orchestra.

“Thanks to the generosity of so many local citizens, Williamsburg Community Foundation is building an Arts & Culture endowment, which will support the arts in the local area with annual grants in perpetuity,” wrote Gasink.

More information

For more information, visit The next deadline for nonprofits interested in applying for grant support from the Williamsburg Community Foundation is July 18.

Arriaza can be reached at 757-790-9313 or on Twitter @rodrigoarriaza0.

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