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Winged Ones Win Arts Council Awards

by Allan Appel | Dec 9, 2013 9:44 am

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Posted to: Arts & Culture

Allan Appel On Thursday evening, Neighborhood Music School Executive Director Larry Zukoff was playing a violin one-eighth the normal size and helping to set up an instrument “petting zoo” at the city’s annual tree lighting ceremony.

On Friday afternoon Zukoff nabbed one of the Arts Council’s annual awards for countless experiences like Thursday night’s: being in the trenches, or behind the scenes, providing the often unseen back-up or infrastructure for arts in our town to continue to flourish.

Or as the Arts Council formally dubbed the year’s award theme: “In the Wings.”

A sell-out crowd of 250 showed up at the Lawn Club to hail Zukoff and the other awardees, who were chosen from a field of over 60 nominees, according to the Arts Council Executive Director Cindy Clair. (Click here for a story about Zukoff’s career; he plans to retire June 30.)

The other recipients included Arts & Ideas Managing Director Elizabeth Fisher; art framer and installer extraordinaire Dwight Pedersen; sculptor Joy Wulke; and the Connecticut Hospice Arts Program.

The council’s top honor, the Newton Schenck III Award for Lifetime Achievement in and Contribution to the Arts, went to William Curran. The manager of Yale University’s investments for a decade, Curran went on to a second significant career as a philanthropist and one who taught others how to set up foundations and advance the arts in the Elm City.

He was hailed for helping New Haven arts organizations large and small, from one end of town to the other, find their financial footing and share what they do with greater audiences.

The Secret Weapon
Fisher has been the go-to behind-the-scenes person at the International Festival of Arts & Ideas for nearly 18 years. When the Council’s Clair called her with the news, Fisher said, “I was shocked. I thought Cindy was joking. I’m like a secret weapon; I don’t want anyone to know me. I like to stay in the back. It suits me and my personality.”

What is it that she does that must be kept secret? And a weapon?

“Maybe weapon is not the right word,” she demurred.

“I like to work quietly, secretly nudging things into place,” she explained.

All Hail Bill
When Curran stood to receive his award, the room erupted into a standing ovation. He accepted with poignancy because he was a friend of Schenk, one of the founders of the arts council, and because Curran’s late wife Jane prized her own service on the council, he recalled.

Each time Curran in his remarks acknowledged other major arts leaders and boosters—Bitsie Clark, Louise Endel, and Ann Calabresi—the room erupted into applause, as it did again when Curran modestly took his seat.

“These are the people. It’s the arts community [come] to cheer for their own,” said Clair.

To begin the event, when all the lunch-eaters had found their seats in the Lawn Club’s ballroom, Jim Andreassi, Curran’s son-in-law as well as the director of Elm Shakespeare Company, rose.

He moved with slow drama among the tables reciting one of Shakespeare’s greatest poems, Sonnet XXIX:

When, in disgrace with fortune and men’s eyes,
I all alone beweep my outcast state,
And trouble deaf heaven with my bootless cries,
And look upon myself and curse my fate,
Wishing me like to one more rich in hope,
Featured like him, like him with friends possessed,
Desiring this man’s art and that man’s scope,
With what I most enjoy contented least;
Yet in these thoughts myself almost despising,
Haply I think on thee, and then my state,
(Like to the lark at break of day arising
From sullen earth) sings hymns at heaven’s gate;
For thy sweet love remembered such wealth brings
That then I scorn to change my state with kings.

Among other more subtle interpretations, might this also be construed as a cri de coeur of a struggling arts organization to those folks “waiting in the wings”?

Proof text: it rhymes well with the final couplet.

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posted by: Daniel Fitzmaurice on December 11, 2013  10:26am

This very well captures the feeling of such an inspiring afternoon. Few are as passionate and dedicated about the importance of the arts yet humble about the integral role they play in the vibrancy of the arts in New Haven as Bill Curran. He is the real gift to our community!

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