Arts Council Hails Those Who Go “Against the Grain”

Allan Appel Photo“People come from near and far, sometimes even from East Rock,” to attend performances at Lyric Hall, said John Cavaliere, founder of the Westville theater and performance space. He was stirring up a little friendly neighborhood rivalry in accepting an award for going “against the grain.”

You might even say he went against the grain.

Impressario Cavaliere’s remarks elicited applause, hoots, and a standing ovation Friday afternoon. Well, at least the folks from Westville stood.

The fun occurred at the 2012 Arts Council awards, whose theme was to celebrate folks and institutions who go “against the grain,” that is, take risks in the name of creativity and artistic expression.

Judy Sirota Rosenthal PhotoCavaliere was one of five people or institutions to receive the Arts Council’s 2012 awards for their contributions in a ceremony of appreciation that drew 260 people to a packed and wreath-festooned ballroom of the Lawn Club. (The winners are pictured here.)

The others were Helen Kauder (pictured) for revitalizing ArtSpace; Ruth M. Feldman for her stalwart efforts to make the arts accessible to the hearing or visually disabled; filmmaker of “My Brother Jack” and other works, Stephen Dest; and the producers and performers of the New England Ballet Company’s “adaptive Nutcracker,” whose cast includes dancers with autism, Down syndrome, and other emotional and physical disabilities.

Carol Ross received the 2012 C. Newton Schenck III Award for lifetime achievement. The council cited her as instrumental in the revitalization of the Neighborhood Music School and the citywide campaign to stabilize the anchoring arts organizations of the Elm City.

Click on the Arts Council’s site for the winners’ full biographical citations.

Lyric Hall has created a new kind of model in New Haven, a cultural center that is also a neighborhood center, and not located downtown, said Friends of Edgewood Park’s Semi Semi-Dikoko.

Cavaliere was emotional and humble as celebrants were taking their seats for the salmon lunch that preceded the awards. He said the occasion put him in mind of people like Jean Handley, who helped him get started. She was one of the co-founders of the International Festival of Arts and Ideas and a recipient of the council’s lifetime achievement award in 2009.

“It reminds me that I need to [continue to] do good works and inspire others,” he said.

As for going against the grain, he said that for someone who works in wood, to receive an award for “going against the grain” was a surprise.

“We lose money every show we do [in the silent film series], but we love to do it,” he said.

Judy Sirota Rosenthal PhotoClick here for a story about the silent film presentations Cavaliere has brought to Lyric Hall, complete with live accompanying orchestra, just the way it was done in the era when Lyric Hall, then known as the West Rock Theater, was built in 1912. Click here for another story about the midsummer flood this year that wreaked havoc both on Cavaliere’s antiques restoration business and the facilities of Lyric Hall.

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