Viva Vegas On The Bosque

During a FUNdraising night of celebration and entertainment, Doug & Jan Kieta named recipients of Spieler Lifetime Achievement Award at Bosque Arts Center’s 41st Annual The Big Event

CLIFTON – There are fundraisers, and then there are FUNdraisers – evenings filled with excellent entertainment, good food and beverages, abundant friends and laughter. Over the years, the Bosque Arts Center elevated their annual fundraising to an art form and created an event people love to attend, again and again.

This year’s Viva Las Vegas theme proved another great hit. Buying into the theme, guests dressed in sequined tops, jackets, wearing a lot of bling, even throwing in sequined and lighted sneakers, and those huge Elvis-style shades, everybody enjoyed every minute of it. And all the while supporting a good cause; whether it was playing craps during Casino Royale Night on Friday, or attending the delicious dinner supplied by Olaf’s on Saturday – with Brian Barrett on guitar and Jeff Ice on Harmonica – or finding Elvis in the house during Al Joslin’s Elvis tribute concert. They packed the house.

Besides the online auction, the gun raffle, the silent auction fundraising elements, the Big Event annually honors the battalions of volunteers that help maintain the BAC as an exceptional center for art and culture in the heart of Texas. The first BAC Lifetime Achievement Award was presented to a very special lady who had the original dream of creating an art center – Joan Spieler. That first award in 1997, started a warm tradition of honoring people who go above and beyond in their dedication and support to the BAC.

“A lady, small in stature but with a towering grit and passion for bringing the arts, all arts, to everyone in a place no one ever dreamed possible,” Presenter Bryan Davis said. “Joan was dismayed that not a single art class was being taught in any Bosque County school. And that children had to travel great distances to see a stage play, an art exhibit, or a concert. When she learned the former Clifton Lutheran College building, this beautiful structure that is 100 years old this year, and the old tin building next door were being vacated, her creative mind kicked into overdrive.”

“Tonight, we remember her [Spieler] as we renew her pledge to support and to grow her vision for generations that not only followed her, but will follow us,” Davis said prior to introducing the recipients of the 24th Lifetime Achievement Award, Doug and Jan Kieta. Active BAC members since 2009, the Kietas have served on many committees and have volunteered in many, many capacities.

“For sure, I was blown away,” said Jan Kieta, who is not often at a loss for words. “I guess in my subconscious thoughts, this is an award given ‘to others.’ Nothing meant by that, other than we feel other worthy folks should receive that. Thus, my total surprise!”

And that reaction sums up the attitude many of the BAC supporters and volunteers have. Over the years the recipients all react the same way – never expecting to receive the honor themselves; always thinking others would be more worthy.

When it comes to volunteering, Jan firstly thinks the iconic 1988 Nike tagline “Just Do It.” She never really thinks ‘Hmmmm, I’m not qualified, I don’t have time, I don’t know some of those people, I’m not sure I have the ‘new’ ideas they desire or can I follow thru with this project/job. Her reaction is usually “‘well, someone has to do it; I’m glad they asked me!”

Doug served on the BAC Board of Directors as treasurer and head of the Building and Grounds Committee. Jan lends her expertise in decorating and design to untold projects through the years, most notably the renovation of the Frazier Performance Hall, as Imagination Factory instructor since 2010 and as Tablescapes Chair and Event Coordinator since 2013.

Both have been actively involved in the Art Council, where Jan served on the Board as secretary and helped to coordinate food and decorations for the annual Christmas dinners. Jan also assisted with running the Gift Shop and served on Big Event Committees through the years where she and Doug both served as volunteers. They can also frequently be found heading the beverage bar for varied BAC functions, Variety Shows and concert series, and hosting dinners and evening offered in auction. 

Additionally, the Kietas are members of the Bosque Civic Music Association, where Jan has served several years on the Board of Directors and is a tireless volunteer from decorating to serving lunches to children during summer camps. She coordinated the Steve Watson piano lab to secure five keyboards for student instruction and helps in the planning of all special events for BCMA such as the Showcase for Young Musicians, the Bosque Chorale concerts, and the Summer Music Camp for Kids.

“It takes people; that’s what makes this work,” Jan said on accepting the award on behalf of the Kieta team. “I’m just the ringleader.”

Does that remind you of another woman of small stature? Spieler always said “The work we do as volunteers is the work we do best as a community.” And with that, she always downplayed her role, admitting only to “knowing the right people at the right time to get things done.”

While he has several personal volunteer projects, Doug is more than happy to be Jan’s right-hand-man, partner in crime, indispensable chief assistant; her loyal and trusty lieutenant. She admits to dumping some daunting tasks on Doug, telling him to “just do it,” and he always does.

“There would be no rocking chairs for Doug and Jan when they bought their Ranch Home near Cranfills Gap more than 20 years ago,” Davis said. “During their years in Bosque County, they have made it an even more special place for us to be proud of. And the Bosque Arts Center is blessed they saw fit to direct so much of their time and talents and resources to this cause. I wish Doug and Jan could have known Joan Spieler, because they are cut from the same cloth regardless of the task they set to accomplish. Go to work, get it done and have a good time while you’re doing it.”

The couple just love “doing stuff for their towns.” Besides volunteering at the BAC, the Kietas volunteer circle extends throughout the Clifton and Cranfills Gap communities, their church, their local Chamber of Commerce and school district.

“I pretty much never say ‘no’ to something that has my heart and head; even if I’ve never ‘done that,’” Jan said. “Just work at it, to get it done. To me – as it is for so many in Bosque – volunteering is the way to help all and maintain our wonderful communities.” So if someone asks Jan, she does it, knowing “I will be ‘helping’ until I’m most likely dead!!”

“They have more energy than most folks half their age,” Davis said. “Wherever and whenever good things are happening, Doug and Jan Kieta are never far away.”

The volunteerism, sponsorships, donations, and participation in the fun activities the Big Event committee plans each year keep the BAC thriving. With that background, the guests know where their donated money ends up, and they get a great party to boot. It’s not for nothing that the BAC staff calls it FUNdraising.

The auction items for the first fundraiser 41 years ago on a Sunday afternoon included a 50 pound bag of dog food, potted begonias and four pounds of sausage brought in about $3,500 and was found to be a “rousing success.” Things have changed somewhat, with silent auction items and mystery gift bags - some with value of more than $100 - and raffle items like Primo Texas Ranger tickets.

According to the BAC Board President Leanne Donner, the Big Event committee did an unbelievable job, making this year a very successful Big Event on many fronts. The board had asked the Big Event Committee to come up with a new format, and they were all in. This group plans, decorates and contributes in all aspects of the endeavor, including financially supporting the Big Event.

“They are talented, passionate and a joy to work with,” Donner said. “The new format was an overwhelming success. The concert added a crescendo to the evening that no one expected. Young and old have asked me to please continue that format.” There was also corporate support from the community as well as community involvement from area businesses.

“Our patrons and sponsors make the magic happen. Donner said. “I get teary eyed at their willingness to support the Big Event and the Bosque Arts Center.” According to Donner, the BAC exceeded their financial goals for the event and gained new memberships.

“I think we can all rest assured she would be ecstatic by what has come from the seed that she planted,” Davis said. “Joan Spieler’s dream has been realized, and then some. Because her vision lives on every time these doors are opened. And every time a young person feels inspiration to create and to dream themselves. And our little corner of the world is made a lot sweeter, and more beautiful, and more meaningful, because Joan Spieler had the passion to make it happen.”


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