ArtsWestchester honors 50, announces $5M challenge grant

By Georgette Gouveia

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ArtsWestchester has announced that an anonymous donor will match its fundraising efforts dollar for dollar — up to $5 million.

The announcement of the huge challenge grant was part of the White Plains-based arts council’s “50 For 50” Arts Award luncheon April 16 at the DoubleTree by Hilton in Tarrytown, which honored 50 visual, literary and performing artists who have enriched the area. They each received a check for $1,000 and a Tiffany crystal votive in an event that had the feel of a graduation ceremony.

As befitted an artistic afternoon — one that included a performance by urban folk/jazz singer-guitarist KJ Denhert and performance artist Marcy B. Freedman, both honorees — there was a playful tone. CBS 2 reporter Tony Aiello, who served as emcee, joked about arts patron Eugene Grant’s spiffy duds. ArtsWestchester CEO Janet T. Langsam and Deputy Westchester County Executive Kevin Plunkett agreed that he is her “main squeeze” when it comes to cultural-government partnerships — unless, of course, County Executive Rob Astorino is around.

Robert Cerminaro, senior vice president of the tristate market for First Niagara bank, the luncheon’s title sponsor, added that he’d like to become Langsam’s main squeeze. “Bring your checkbook,” Plunkett quipped from the dais.

Indeed, beyond the artistic flirtations and jocularity, there was a serious thread about the tension between art, a qualitative thing, and money, a quantitative one.

“Here’s the great irony,” Freedman said in her knowing performance piece. “The value of art in the age of money is to remind you of values that are not monetary at all.”

Yet another great irony, however, is that it does take some money to make art available to more and more people.

“I would love your help in painting that larger canvas,” Langsam said.

“I would make a case that the arts are even more important in a world of stress,” said Yvonne Pollack, recipient, with her husband Leslie, of The Emily and Eugene Grant Arts Patron Award.

They make us and our society, she added, “more vital and compassionate.”

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Georgette Gouveia

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