Actor and Booker High grad Charlie Barnett

The Booker High School Visual & Performing Arts Program (VPA) just got a nice boost to help ticket sales for its first-ever fund-raising event, Kaleidoscope of Creativity, on March 9: Booker High grad, and star of the hot new Netflix series Russian Doll, Charlie Barnett, will be the guest of honor speaking that evening.

Barnett grew up in Sarasota, performing as a youngster on local stages and graduating from Booker in 2007 before heading to Juilliard in New York to further his studies. He’s also starred in other television and Netflix series including Chicago Fire, Valor and Orange is the New Black.

No doubt Barnett’s success story will provide encouragement for the aspiring artists of the VPA program, many of whom might struggle to find a way to pursue arts at the college level. Booker High serves the most diverse and underprivileged student body in the district, with 70 percent of the population qualifying for free or reduced-price lunches. Kaleidoscope of Creativity hopes to level the playing field, so that students coming out of the VPA program have experiences on par with students nationwide.

Booker High dance students will be among those performing March 9.

Proceeds from the event will be used to provide master classes on campus, gain access to performances to enhance appreciation and exposure, and pay fees involved with pursuing placement in collegiate programs, such as travel, audition and application fees, and tuition relief. The VPA, founded in the 1970s, has earned national rankings for its excellence in arts education and offers five areas of concentration: dance, digital film and motion design, fine art, music and theater.

This first-of-its-kind evening takes place from 7 to 9 p.m. March 9 on the Westcoast Black Theatre rooftop deck, and, along with performances by VPA students, also offers food and drink by Michael’s On East. Tickets, $100, are available by calling the VPA box office at (941) 355-2967, option #3, or at bookervpa.com/tickets.

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