Ashland High School takes its arts programs seriously. Local audiences have long enjoyed the fine theatrical performances that the students in the drama department present every year. Ashland choir and dance students have likewise gained loyal audiences. Student painters, photographers and sculptors have their work on display in the lobby of the Mountain Avenue Theatre.




But funding for the arts in schools is very low. That is why there is a community organization dedicated to supporting the fine and performing arts at Ashland High School. The group is called Ashland High Arts Advocates (AHAA!) and it will present its annual Winter Fine Arts Festival Wednesday and Thursday, Jan. 30 and 31, at the AHS Mountain Avenue Theater.




The Festival is the primary fund raiser for AHAA! Funds from ticket sales, auction revenues and event concessions are used to augment each art and music program at AHS and provide summer enrichment scholarships to students pursuing artistic growth in a multitude of disciplines. In 2006/7 AHAA! awarded 39 summer scholarships and funded students participating in state and regional honors ensembles and competitions.




In a press release AHAA! president David Young said "AHAA! performs a very vital function in the educational arena at AHS. This wonderful group of dedicated parents and community members has held the vision of support for art education long before the present era of declining enrollment and strained school budgets. The financial help and advocacy are absolutely critical to the survival and sustainability of high-quality art and music programs at AHS in the present fiscal environment."




The Winter Fine Arts Festival provides a showcase for the AHS department of fine and performing arts. Disciplines represented both nights include choir, band, orchestra, theatre, video, and visual arts. This year's promotional poster was produced by student Anja DuBois whose work was selected as the winner of AHAA!'s annual student poster competition.




For the second consecutive year, the festival will feature a pre-show caf&

233;. For an additional $7 payable at the door, festival-goers can enjoy food from some of Ashland's finest restaurants served buffet style in the Commons from 6-7 p.m. Student musicians will entertain diners who will then have the opportunity to leisurely preview the full array of silent auction items and enjoy the student art works on display, including video production, photography, pottery, and assorted visual media.




The pre-show caf&

233; is made possible by the donations of local restaurants. There will be a wide selection of soups, salads, pizza, finger foods, and pastries provided by Pasta Piatti, Standing Stone Brewery, Wiley's World Pasta, The Village Baker, Geppetto's, Greenleaf, Louie's Bar Grill, Se&

241;or Sam's, Amy's Kitchen, Wild Goose Caf&

233;, Avalon Bar Grill, Ashland Bistro Caf&

233;, and Creek House Patisserie.. More than a hundred local businesses and individuals have donated items to the silent auction, which will again feature the popular "take it home now" price for those who want to avoid the anxiety of potentially losing out to a higher bidder. This year's auction selections include vacations, gift certificates, art pieces, show tickets, and many other items.




The live show of student performances in choir, theatre, orchestra, and band begins at 7 p.m. inside the theater. The musical theatre class will perform three production numbers from "Thoroughly Modern Millie," "Bye Bye Birdie," and "Spamalot." There will also be a preview of this year's AHS spring musical, "Beauty and the Beast," which opens on March 6 and runs for two weekends.




Advance tickets for the Winter Fine Arts Festival are available at the AHS office and Tree House Books on the Plaza for $10. Reduced-price tickets for students and children will be available only at the door for $5.




Membership in AHAA! is open to anyone interested in supporting the arts at AHS. The group meets in the AHS Music Room at 7:30 p.m. on the second Tuesday of every month. Call 488-4188.