Art Talk: There’s Always Magic In The Air

While it is true that the neon lights are bright on Broadway, they won’t hold a candle to the radiance that will emanate from North Central College’s Wentz Concert Hall on February 18.

That is the night the Academy of the Arts, a new west-suburban nonprofit academic and art school, hosts A Night of Broadway Cocktails + Concert, its first fundraising gala. The star-studded event begins at 6PM and features stars from some of the biggest shows on stage and screen.

Zonya Love (Celie in “The Color Purple”); Cathy Rigby (Peter Pan in “Peter Pan”); Julia Murney (Elphaba in “Wicked”); Karen Mason (Tanya in “Mamma Mia!”); Meecah (starring in “Hamilton”); and Stephen Wallem (Thor Lundgren on “Nurse Jackie”) are among the celebrities supporting the endeavor.

Their engagement will launch the Academy’s year-one fundraising goal of $2 million.

“Community support is critical to meet our goal to fully open in fall 2025,” Academy co-founder Dylan Ladd said. “It sounds lofty, but we’ve done the research and have the data: This is the right location with the level of community engagement needed to bring this asset to the families of Naperville and surrounding suburbs.”

Tailored for grades 6 through 12, the Academy will offer classes in math, reading, language arts, social studies, and science along with a range of visual arts and performing arts programs. This rigorous curriculum blends academic content with an equal dose of arts courses to prepare students for success in the arts beyond their high school experience.

The facility is a planned world-class arts center: a 1,200-seat auditorium with a proscenium stage, fly loft, orchestra pit, an outdoor amphitheater, a modular black box theater, dance studios, and academic classrooms. The estimated cost of the endeavor is $80 million.

“We have a lot of work ahead before we have our state-of-the-art facility and our first class of full-time students,” Ladd said. “And our work moving forward is securing funding for the project.”

Tickets to the gala are priced at $100 for the event that includes a cocktail hour, silent auction, and concert, and can be ordered at

Hotel Arista, Naperville’s only AAA Four Diamond hotel, is offering a special group rate for gala ticketholders. Call (630) 579-4100 to request the Academy of the Arts rate.

Learn more about the Academy, its gala, and other opportunities to support its mission at

Academy of the Arts’
A Night of Broadway Cocktails + Concert
6PM Fri., Feb. 18
Wentz Concert Hall – 171 E. Chicago Ave.