April 9, 2010

And they’re off! COCA (Center of Creative Arts) has always been known for innovative events, and this year is no exception. From starting gate to finish line, the 2010 COCAcabana gala, KenTacky Derby, will deliver Derby-themed dinner and drinks, auctions, games of chance and entertainment with a Southern flair. The event on Saturday, May 1 (Derby day), at Palladium Saint Louis, benefits COCA’s many programs, including the Urban Arts Program, which provides free arts education and scholarships to more than 3,000 low-income students in public schools throughout St. Louis City. Last year’s gala raised about $350,000.

“At COCA we believe the arts belong to everyone, and our programs make that a reality,” says executive director Stephanie Riven. “We want to continue carrying out our mission despite difficult economic times, and COCAcabana, our largest annual fundraiser, helps us do so. We’re grateful for the sponsorship of National City/PNC for the sixth consecutive year, and we’re thrilled that Anheuser-Busch has joined them this year as co-presenting sponsor.”

Chaired by Julie and Bob Burmeister, Sarah and Adam Melinger, and Catherine and Maurice Quiroga, the event celebrates COCA’s mission of enriching lives and building community through the arts. “A business cannot succeed if its communities are not well-positioned for future growth and success,” says Quiroga, executive vice president, PNC Wealth Management. “That’s why at PNC we devote resources and human capital to seed ideas, foster development initiatives and support nonprofit organizations. As a corporation, we’ve supported COCA for many years, and we’re glad to continue supporting this year’s COCAcabana.”

Laura Reeves, senior director of foundation and corporate giving at Anheuser-Busch, says, “COCA brings the St. Louis community together through celebration of the arts. We’re proud to sponsor COCAcabana, and help bring arts education, urban arts programs and scholarships to aspiring individuals throughout our city.”

Live entertainment will be sponsored by The Boeing Company. Items to be auctioned throughout the evening include VIP tickets to next year’s Kentucky Derby; four nights at an exclusive resort in Cabo San Lucas; and an all-expense-paid trip and VIP tickets to the next Sundance Film Festival. A number of related events are scheduled throughout April and May, including an April 15 patron party and fashion show at Saks Fifth Avenue, and Derby Dollar Days, April 11 to 18, which kicks off with an April 12 party at Robust Wine Bar & Café in Webster Groves. “During Dollar Days, participating restaurants and shops will donate a portion of their proceeds to COCA,” explains Virginia Howell, COCA’s development officer.

COCA serves 50,000 people annually with more than 500 classes, camps and workshops in dance, music, theater and the visual arts; the COCA Family Theatre Series; an exhibition series in the Millstone Gallery; and a comprehensive program offering arts education in 50 schools throughout St. Louis City and County. “We also have a men’s committee that helps raise money for scholarships,” Howell says, adding that Centene Corp. is COCA’s leading scholarship sponsor.

“The arts help sustain joy in times of trouble, enabling children in need to develop their talent, creativity and leadership skills,” Howell says. “Since its founding in 1986, COCA has valued the power of the arts to transform and influence lives. COCAcabana is critical to our mission, and we hope St. Louisans will join us for a night of sassy, silly Southern fun.”

On the Cover: ‘KenTacky Derby’ is the theme of COCAcabana 2010, May 1 at Palladium Saint Louis. The event benefits COCA’s Urban Arts Program, which provides free arts education and scholarships to more than 3,000 low-income students. Call 725-1834, ext. 105, or visit www.cocastl.org/cocacabana for more information.

Cover photo by Gregg Goldmann | Cover design by Dave Fey