A gala event typically brings to mind men in tuxedos and women in glistening gowns, entertained by a speech or two and dancing to a band. Though on a smaller scale, the Visual Arts Society’s recent spring gala at Garfrerick’s Café had the same festal feel as a traditional gala celebration. The paintings were all dressed up in their most colorful frames, there were welcoming speeches from the current and incoming presidents of VAS, and the music was provided by one man, jazz guitarist Manabu Saeki.

A live auction, called by auctioneer David Hall, offered watercolors, photographs, a print on woven paper made from the silk-screen technique and more. The silent auction featured book art, calligraphy, jewelry and fabrics. The individuality of each piece up for bid seemed to appeal to one or several people in attendance. The bidding brought in at least $5,000 for the art department at Jacksonville State University, according to VAS vice president Lesa Cummings.

Cummings’ own photo print on canvas, “Sunrise Over Bagan” (an ancient city in Burma), went for $400, while Susan Robertson’s mixed media “Nemesis” attracted the highest bid — $475.

Robertson’s media work on paper is from a series exploring the connection between ancient and contemporary myth-making in society. The artist is a third-year graduate student in JSU’s new art master’s program, fine arts in visual communication design. Her thesis is based in graphic design pedagogy and offers a novel method of investigation for application by first-year design students.

The funds will go toward scholarships and new equipment for the growing art department. Seth Johnson, a JSU alumni now teaching at Middle Tennessee State University, will take over as department head in June.

Oxford Arts Council presents Mark Trammell Quartet

They’ve performed Southern gospel music in small churches, restaurants, refurbished theaters and even venues as large as the 2,000 seat Fair and Expo Center in Louisville, Ky. But just mention the Mark Trammell Quartet’s next engagement, a concert at the Oxford Performing Arts Center Saturday at 7 p.m., and bass singer Pat Barker’s voice hits its highest pitch yet.

It’s an exciting performance for Barker, not only because it takes place in a building of historical significance restored with the latest sound and lighting technology, but because it gives the Oxford native a chance to see his friends again.

The quartet’s tours have taken him across the country and to points all over the world, Barker said, but his music involvement started at Oxford High School, at JSU and at home with his family. His father, Roy Barker, has been choir director at Williams First Baptist Church in Pleasant Valley for 27 years and his uncle, Bill Barker, was band director at OHS until he retired in 1996.

“I credit lots of influential people for encouraging me to perform,” said Barker, who now lives in Gadsden. “It’s the people we meet at the concerts now that make it all worth it. They become my friends, my family and we like to think we have changed some lives with our message.”

The ensemble will sing old and new favorites including “I Wanna Know,” which in 2012 was named gospel music song of the year by Christian radio stations, as well as the group’s current release, “Your Walk Talks.” Their CD “Treasures” contains 12 songs that impart praise with sounds both snappy and slow.

Tickets are $15 for the Artist Circle, $10 for general admission and can be purchased in advance or at the door. To order tickets online, go to oxfordpac.org. For more information, call 256-241-3322 or 256-832-0000.