Four Decades Of Arts

Pro-Art keeps bringing performances, art and education

Pro-Art enters its forty-first year of bringing community access to the arts with a new lineup of theater, music and visual arts events to the college and surrounding area.

Jan Zentmeyer, the new director of Pro-Art said, “We just try to bring a host of different programs to try and give students plenty of opportunities to see different things and get your cultural arts credits.”

Pro-Art was founded by Daisy Portuondo because she wanted different programming to be available for her children.

Portuondo and her husband Augusto – both natives of Cuba – moved to Wise, Her husband joined the College faculty as a professor of Spanish, and she saw the need for the arts in Wise. She began Pro-Art with just a ballet, and it grew into a continuing program of performances and a complement to arts education in the region.

Pro-Art serves the UVa-Wise, Mountain Empire Community College and Lee County communities as a source of entertainment for the arts for students and surrounding residents. That means hard work to plan events for each season far in advance before the season is set to start.

“Planning occurs in the winter,” said Zentmeyer. “We start signing contracts in April. This year’s program has been started since before I took over.”

Pro-Art chooses what events will occur during each season in different ways. They will reach out to those they want to see perform, or will be contacted by people who are interested in doing programs for this area.

“Many of the performers are Virginia artists because there are matching funds for the Virginia Commission for the Arts,” Zentmeyer said. “We have donations from UVa-Wise, MECC and the local government that give us money, some business sponsors and patrons that buy tickets and make donations. Many of the local governments contribute for us also, because it is benefitting their citizens.”

Pro-Art started the 2017-2018 season at UVa-Wise July 29 with the Symphony of the Mountains on the Lawn by the Lake. On Aug. 20, they welcomed the US Navy Band Country Current to the Performing Arts Center at JW Adams.

Pro-Art has several performances coming up in the fall and spring semester. The new season opens with productions of “Sense and Sensibility” on Sunday, Sept. 10 at 3 p.m. and “The Taming of the Shrew” on Monday, Sept. 11 at 7:30 p.m., both at the Gilliam Center for the Arts at UVa-Wise.

Both plays are presented by the American Shakespeare Center in Staunton, Va. This will be the Center’s fourth year performing at the College.

The American Shakespeare Center also is working with Theater Department Professor Michael McNulty to provide four workshops to students during their time at the College.

Cellist Dave Eggar rounds out Pro- Art’s opening week with a performance at the Gilliam Center on Thursday, Sept. 14 at 8 p.m. for the program known as Lead Virginia.

On Sept. 27 at 7 p.m., Christopher Irving comes to the College’s Cantrell Hall to speak to students on ‘The Comic Book in Film.’ Irving, a comic book and popular culture historian, will discuss how comic books have affected movies and vice versa.

All events are free to current UVa-Wise students. Season tickets for those who are not students are $40 for adults and $35 for seniors. Single-event ticket prices differ from show to show.

“Come to performances,” Zentmeyer said.  “We love to have a good audience for these people who come in and you don’t want a crowd of five, that’s not what we are looking for.”

Students who are interested in possible volunteer opportunities with Pro-Art can contact Ben Mays at

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