The stars came out to Trione Winery on Sunday, March 4, to support the Alexander Valley Film Society's (AVFS) Red Carpet Evening Gala. Attendees and patrons helped raise nearly $50,000 for AVFS' year-round educational and cultural programming.

Kathryn Hecht

This is good news for all of us. This month kicks off three full months of films directed by women for our monthly screening series. Our program to send underserved youth from the Boys & Girls Clubs of Central Sonoma County to the movies will double in size this year. We plan to offer a summer drive-in series with three family-friendly titles and restructured pricing to ensure all Sonoma County families attend this fun summer tradition. Soon we'll begin planning for the fourth annual Alexander Valley Film Festival, a destination event in our own backyards, featuring the best in world cinema.

Never has it been more important to support the arts and arts education. The arts give meaning to our lives. We connect with one another by telling stories. We learn to articulate our thoughts and feelings and grapple with things we don't understand. The arts challenge our ideas and the status quo in our society. In addition, there are measurable economic benefits such as these collected from Americans for the Arts:

Arts improve academic performance. Students engaged in arts learning have higher GPAs, standardized test scores and lower dropout rates. These academic benefits are reaped by students regardless of socio-economic status.

Arts strengthen the economy. The arts represent a larger share of the nation's economy (4.2 percent of GDP) than transportation, tourism and agriculture. The nonprofit arts industry alone generates $166.3 billion in economic activity annually (spending by organizations and their audiences), which supports 4.6 million jobs and generates $27.5 billion in government revenue.

Arts drive tourism and revenue to local businesses. Attendees at nonprofit arts events spend $31.47 per person, per event, beyond the cost of admission on items such as meals, parking, and babysitters — valuable commerce for local businesses. Thirty-four percent of attendees live outside the county in which the arts event takes place; they average $47.57 in event-related spending. Arts travelers are ideal tourists, staying longer and spending more to seek out authentic cultural experiences.

Senator Mike McGuire attended our Red Carpet event with his wife, Erika, and led a successful live auction and paddle raise. "This is about helping students go to the movies who can't afford to go to the movies on their own," he told the crowd. "This is about giving families the experience of going to the movies together, something most of us take for granted. And this is about helping kids – future filmmakers – find their vocation. Will you stand with us tonight?"

And stand they did.

On behalf of the AVFS Board of Directors, AVFS staff, volunteers and future storytellers — thank you. See you at the movies!

Kathryn Hecht is the executive director of the Alexander Valley Film Society.

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