We attended the 56th annual Americans for the Arts National Arts Awards in NYC. Awardees include Tony Bennett and Esperanza Spalding.
Amid a jarring and jolting election season, the Americans for the Arts National Arts Awards were a welcome moment of humor and celebration of this country. In Hillary Clinton’s (sorry!) words, “America is great because America is good”, and it was no more evident than at Cipriani 42nd street on Monday night.
Americans for the Arts really needs no introduction: it’s the leading organization for advancing the arts and arts education in America. Celebrating its 56th year, it’s an awards effort that seeks to recognize artists and leaders who have the skill and innovation in the USA. All proceeds help support American for the Arts’ core programs and activities, which serve the needs of more than 150,000 members and stakeholders across the country each year.
Carolyn Clark Powers is leading her second year as the National Arts Awards Chair and as the namesake of its Lifetime Achievement Award, who we were able to chat with during the red carpet. She said that this year, “selecting the honorees involved looking at the past, present, and the future of the arts.” On view were two large-scale Robert Rauschenberg works in the beautiful decorated dining room.
After a reception with cocktails and passed hors d’oeuvres, guests filled the main dining room and room and took their seats as awards began to be presented.
The ceremony began with drummer musician Terri Lyne Carrington presenting the Ted Arison Young Artist Award to Esperanza Spalding, who I had the pleasure of dancing with at an event some time ago, I approached Esperanza and she remembered immediately our time together. She later stopped by my table, shared with Terri Carrington and film producer Sidra Smith, to chat.
Outstanding Contributions to the Arts Award went to Doug Aitken and was presented by Kerry Brougher. It went to show the liberal and open-minded nature of the Americans for the Arts, as Aitken’s works push the limits of what art is and should be. It takes a brave mind to not only embrace, but also celebrate this kind of art.
High school student and violinist Brianna Perez presented the Arts Education Award to The Mr. Holland’s Opus Foundation, accepted by its President, Felice Mancini. The foundation works to have instruments donated and placed in the hands of schoolchildren around the country, to outsized effect.
Susan and David Goode accepted the Legacy Award presented by Virginian orchestral conductor JoAnn Falletta. Roselyne Chroman Swig was awarded the Philanthropy in the Arts Award. Her commitment to philanthropy is astounding, and runs the country over, originating in none other than San Francisco.
There was a stunning musical performance by Young Arts alumni, which performed a selection of Esperanza Spalding and Tony Bennett songs, including “Little Fly” and “I Left My Heart in San Francisco”, respectively. Guests also heard from CEO Robert L. Lynch, who spoke about the unique nature and capabilities of Americans for the Arts.
Finally, after a fabulous dinner of fish and beef, the conclusion of the evening involved politician Nancy Pelosi presenting the Carolyn Clark Powers Lifetime Achievement Award to the legendary Tony Bennett, now 90 years old and “still not ready to quit”, as said in his acceptance speech. Later, we learned he was looking for an after-party!
This year, the awards raised over $700,000 for the Arts, which will see funding to a number of programs. We cannot deny the importance of arts in this country, and Americans for the Arts plays an important role in ensuring arts are within the reach of as many Americans as possible.
The black tie event is presented by Carolyn Powers and co-chairs Sarah Arison, Justine and Jeff Koons, Martha Goode Mielnik, and Nora C. Orphanides.