For the ninth annual Finale, the end-of-the-year fundraiser benefiting the University of Arkansas at Little Rock’s College of Arts, Humanities, and Social Sciences, the usual Master of Ceremonies and TV anchor Craig O’Neill found himself in a different seat entirely.
The couple are avid, long-time supporters of UALR’s arts programs. This year’s event honored them both, by displaying Hankins’ iconic, whimsical sculptures along the food display, as well as having O’Neill act as M.C., even if only for a second.
Melissa Thoma, who was honored last year alongside her husband Martin Thoma, tried out her moves as M.C.
Accompanied by two UALR dance students, Thoma took the stage, diva-style, singing a rendition of Beyoncé’s “All the Single Ladies,” with the now popular line, “If you liked it then you should have put a bid on it.”
Shortly thereafter, O’Neill and Hankins accepted their plaque, and O’Neill jolted the crowd into a bidding mood. This year’s premier item, the only one to be live auctioned, was an elegant set of jewelry donated by Sissy’s Log Cabin, which raised over $2,500 for the arts programs.
Shortly after, UALR voice students presented scenes from “The Fantastiks” to those in the audience. Before O’Neill finished the live auction, he told the crowd, “The college did not know this when they came to me, but “The Fantastiks” means a lot to Jane and I. When we were students here we were actually in that production, so if I stand up and it turns into karaoke, I apologize.”
The event featured heavy hors d’oeuvres, and a piano bar on the side of the building, patio-style.
Arts organizations from around the region lend their support to Finale each year. This year’s participating arts partners are Accademia dell’Arte, Arkansas Arts Center, Arkansas Festival Ballet, Arkansas Repertory Theatre, Arkansas Symphony Orchestra, and Wildwood Park.