More than 430 patrons of the arts “attended” a virtual benefit for the Livermore Valley Performing Arts Center on Nov. 21, raising nearly $200,000 through sponsorships, ticket sales, raffles and online auction, and other donations.

“It was somewhat strange performing for an empty audience, but we could definitely feel everyone out there watching,” Chris Carter, executive director, wrote in his online blog this week.

Carter, who hosted the benefit from the Bankhead Theater with emcee and auctioneer Freddy Silveria, said he “loved looking over at the chat feed coming through. There were so many names of people I know and miss.”

The LVPAC operates the Bankhead Theater and the Bothwell Arts Center. The goal of the online benefit, dubbed the “Best of the Bankhead,” was to “raise the resources needed to continue operating so we will be able to bring our staff back intact,” Carter said.

The Bankhead and the Bothwell Arts Center, like most live-performance venues across the country, have been shut down since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We have a wonderful staff,” Carter said. “Many of them were watching as well and even contributing, which tells me how important this space is to them. In the six years I have worked here, it has become evident to me that the staff believe they are stewards and protectors of this space. And it is a role they take very seriously. Now after last night, I have come to realize that many of you in our community also feel the same way.”

The benefit featured video appearances by some of the most popular artists who have appeared at the Bankhead multiple times since it opened in 2007, including comedian Paula Poundstone, ukulele master Jake Shimabukuro, and smooth jazz legend Keiko Matsui. All three are booked for performances at the Bankhead in 2021.