Spirit of philanthropy alive and well in Santa Fe

Opera director Charles Mackay and Mara Robinson pose at the opera’s Winter Gala. (Courtesy of Robert Godwin for The Santa Fe Opera)

SANTA FE, N.M. — Welcome to Stepping Out – a column primarily about the big hearts and generosity of Santa Feans.

You will find it on this page every other Friday.

Some of us have been “born here all our lives,” and some came here on purpose, bringing a spirit of philanthropy and passion for our causes, a desire to improve life and the world, and a joie de vivre for putting the fun in fundraising.

Having spent more than 35 years with the world’s most adorable auctioneer, I go to more than my share of fundraising events. In this space, I will share a sample of those events, and how to pitch in, in case you missed them.

December – being the holiday season – was a month for writing checks to needy and worthy charities that tug at our heart strings in so many ways. It was also the last chance for arts organizations to entice supporters to spring for one last fling, with benefits that offered good friends, good food, good music and the opportunity to support several great organizations, which, by the way, employ artists and attract loads of tourists and their dollars to Santa Fe.

For the first time in recorded memory, the Opera Winter Gala was held not in the Scenery Shop but in Steiren Hall, filled with ethereal twinkle lit ficus trees. A drastic move, mostly praised. Another novelty: no silent auction and no live auction … no chance to buy Opera director Charles MacKay for a dinner party.

Three very talented apprentices entertained to the accompaniment of pianist Kirt Pavitt; later, experts like June and Tom Catron and Marion and Abe Silver cut a rug to the ’40s dance tunes of the 18-piece Big Dance Band. Nearly 200 people came to honor director of development Carole Ely, who retired after a 23-year association with the Opera.

The evening raised more than $50,000, which will help fund the Opera Apprentice Program, an opportunity that prepares freshmen opera stars for the Big Time. Go to santafeopera.org.

Imagine the St. Francis Auditorium transformed into a historic Spanish hacienda winter wonderland. The auditorium’s pews were removed, and in their place were exotically decorated stations of elaborate hors d’ oeuvres.

Museum of New Mexico Foundation Members Circle benefactors moved about the gorgeous room, many in Spanish costumes reminiscent of the period, at the Holiday Party & Opening Night celebration of the Goya show, with Santa Fe its only stop in the Americas.

Two eminent curators and “Keepers” from the British Museum were present – Mark MacDonald, who oversaw installation of the show, and Hugo Chapman, who spoke about its importance and relevance to New Mexico. Soon the museum doors were opened, and art lovers overflowed from the party into the exhibit for a relaxed, close-up look at the remarkable drawings of the Spanish master. Hurry and catch the show, until March 9. To join: museumfoundation.org.

On another note, the Santa Fe Symphony held its “Home for the Holidays” gala at the Club at Las Campanas. The Symphony’s Brass Quintet played rousing music as guests purchased colorful balloons stuffed with little gift certificates for big prizes, and watched marvelous magician Max Krause perform sleight of hand marvels that amazed everyone.

After a fabulous classic Christmas dinner of roast beef and turkey, the Symphony Wind Quintet played cheerful holiday tunes and really put everyone into the spirit of the season. santafesymphony.org.

The annual Souper Bowl fundraiser attracted 1,400 happy eaters to the convention center Saturday, and the event netted more than $60,000 for The Food Depot. As usual, diners got to vote on which of the participating restaurants made the best soup. This year’s overall winner was the Terra Restaurant at the Four Seasons Rancho Encantando, which offered a winter squash and chorizo soup.

Ashley Margetson has a BA in English from UCLA, is a senior real estate broker with Sotheby’s International Realty, and has a finger on the pulse of philanthropic activities in Santa Fe. To tell us about an upcoming event, email ashleym@ashleymargetson.com.

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