TPAC within $30,000 of annual fundraising goal for child entertainment, enrichment and education

As the end of the year draws nearer, the Topeka Performing Arts Center is taking its fundraising campaign to the streets to reach its final goal.


At the beginning of 2017, the city of Topeka pledged an additional $30,000 if TPAC raised $200,000 for expenses and fundraising for the year.

“It’s almost like a dollar-to-dollar match,” said Larry Gawronski, executive director of TPAC. “Through several different sources, show sponsorships for different things, we literally are $30,000 away from reaching that goal.”

A new method implemented recently by the TPAC staff is the “protege” membership level, where for $20 people can send three children to the Sheffel Theatre Clinic the arts center hosts from January through March.

“It’s geared toward what we call the ‘at risk youth’ or the schools that are underfunded and don’t have the money to send kids to the theater clinic, much less even underwrite busing to bring them here,” Gawronski said.

There’s also the Schooltime Theater Series, where twice a year local ballets provide a free show for middle-school children to experience live theater. This winter they will be able to see “The Nutcracker,” and this spring, “Romeo and Juliet,” with a possible addition to be added later next year, according to Gawronski.

Working with Tinkham Veale Creative executive producer Chris Shultz, he and Gawronski have expanded their campaign to videos explaining their cause, mailers to TPAC supporters and local companies and their employers, as well as the additional membership level.

“It’s been an ongoing process the whole year when you’re coming up with $200,000 budget to raise, and you get to this point,” Shultz said, “And now we’re turning to the public to say, ‘OK, we’ve raised quite a bit throughout the year, and now we just need to get to that final stretch.’ And when we do we can do that much more good with the dollars.”

Throughout the year TPAC hosts annual events such as Grape Escape and Gingerbread Home for the Holidays to contribute to their fundraising goals.

Also impacted each year are the children who receive a “Young Artist of the Year” award. Each spring, nine Shawnee County high school juniors who excelled in fine arts are given a scholar ship to continue their education.

“Whether that’s college, acting classes, cosmetology school, whatever it may be — we underwrite some of their expenses,” Gawronski said. “Several students are awarded anywhere from $200 to $1,000.”

This “Spotlight on Youth” fundraising has taken place every year since TPAC was rededicated in 1991. Gawronski explained TPAC’s goals of making the arts accessible to everyone in the community, from programming for children to offering the facility to be rented out by community members for their events.

“You’re giving people who may not be the best on the sports team something to be the best at,” Schultz said. “That provides children opportunities and gave kids like me a safe haven, and it’s one of the things that made me call Topeka home because we have such a beautiful, vibrant performing arts scene.”

To contribute, visit, call (785) 234-2787, or mail donations to the Topeka Performing Arts Center, 214 S.E. 8th (66603).