Portraits by Harold Shapiro
This year’s Arts Awards recognize Great Adaptations, the creations of ambitious and industrious minds. The Arts Council is proud to acknowledge those among us for whom the pursuit of an ideal is a chase not undertaken alone, those among us whose unique experiences are made richer when shared, and those among us whose visions for a brighter future are being realized before our eyes.
2011 C. Newton Schenck III Award for Lifetime Achievement in and Contribution to the Arts
Baba David Coleman is a storyteller who communicates lessons of life and tradition through rhythm, a percussionist whose drumming connects us all to that which lies within and beyond ourselves. Born in New York and informed by the percussion customs of Africa and elsewhere, Baba David Coleman has connected those young and older to a global and timeless vocabulary, one that knows neither borders nor bounds. Audiences in this country and abroad have been introduced to Baba David Coleman as the pulse of the multiethnic musical fusion that is the Afro-Semitic Experience. Younger generations, at the Foote School, Neighborhood Music School, and public schools, and at festivals, forums, and venues near and far, have been taught the universal language of rhythm. A man of spirit and spirituality, Baba David Coleman has shared the yield of his far-reaching experience, allowing us to appreciate the infectious music of disparate times and places.
Will Baker, in his brief but galvanizing tenure as executive director of the Young Men’s Institute Library, has rescued the organization from the dust of history and reestablished this urban sanctuary as “a center of literary life, education, and social debate in New Haven.” Established in 1826 as the Young Apprentices’ Literary Association, and committed to the “intellectual and moral improvement of its members,” the organization represented the collective capital of New Haven’s intellectual class. Once a beacon attracting to the city the likes of Dickens, Douglass, Emerson, and others, the Institute Library’s vitality atrophied in time’s shadows. In the confluence of Will Baker’s erudite experiences, which have included working with the William Reese Company – a rare-book purveyor here in New Haven – and scholarship in museum studies and library science, the Institute Library found the ideal individual to re-establish the organization’s relevance. Armed with input from current members, Will’s vision for a reinvigorated Institute Library includes new programming – including lectures, writing and reading groups, and exhibitions – that mirrors the social and intellectual activity that marked the organization’s earlier years. Today, we are all beneficiaries of Will Baker’s earnest desire to reinvent the organization as one whose doors are open not to a select few, but to all of us who hold a stake in the future.
Thea Buxbaum has, over the balance of two decades, provided artists with space in which to live and create, and, in doing so, has transformed New Haven’s Westville neighborhood into a place where the arts flourish and a cultural destination marked by the yield of its creative community. When Thea arrived in New Haven a decade and a half ago, it was with a vision to create an artist studio for her husband, sculptor Gar Waterman, and a home that would nourish their common appetite for inspiration. After purchasing from the City of New Haven, for $1, a tired and abandoned warehouse on West Rock Avenue, Thea, with Gar, created an environment that met those needs and saw in Westville Village the promise of more. With an approach to real-estate development that has focused on the fostering of a thriving artist community, Thea Buxbaum has led the revitalization of that neighborhood. From out-of-use commercial properties have grown spaces in which artists can both live and create. The lives of residents and visitors alike have been enriched by Thea’s vision and involvement with the Westville Village Renaissance Alliance, the organization’s annual ArtWalk, and the village’s designation as a Connecticut Main Street Community. From the establishment of the West Rock Studio and Kehler Liddell Gallery to the opening of Arts Lofts West and the Austin Street Inn, Thea Buxbaum has engineered the renaissance of Westville Village and given that community an inimitable character and identity.
Eileen Carpinella, as executive director of Young Audiences Arts for Learning Connecticut, has tirelessly and spiritedly ensured that the lives of the state’s youth are imbued with the promise of possibility that is inherent to the performing and visual arts. Through the Connecticut chapter of Young Audiences Arts for Learning, and under Eileen’s impassioned leadership, children throughout the state, as part of their formal education and experiences in their communities, have engaged with and participated in the fruitful exercise of artistic expression. During Eileen’s tenure, the benevolent reach of Young Audiences Arts for Learning Connecticut has extended, through VSA – The International Organization on Arts and Disability, to young people for whom avenues for artistic expression and enthusiastic audiences might otherwise be locked in unrealized dreams. Eileen Carpinella’s commitment to the enrichment of young people’s lives through the arts is as much a profound benefit to society at large as it is to the extraordinary minds she helps to mold.
Aaron Jafferis is a nationally recognized and award-winning hip-hop poet and playwright whose work mines the human condition and whose involvement in the local community has inspired younger generations to explore, though language and art, the cultural lessons and ideals that reside in every corner of society. Aaron Jafferis’ celebrated achievements, which include recognition from such iconic organizations as the American Academy of Arts and Letters and the Sundance Institute, promise a future of seemingly limitless artistic success. Equally impressive has been the influence Aaron has had on countless youth here, in his native New Haven. With the written and spoken word, and in more languages than one, Aaron has inspired young people at various educational institutions, including ACES Educational Center for the Arts, here in New Haven, and has brightened the days of those in treatment at Yale-New Haven Children’s Hospital, through that facility’s Child Life department. With Aaron Jafferis, emerging artists and engaged audiences have explored the societal struggles of yesterday and today and the isolating experiences that haunt our lives. Through his work and his innate social consciousness, Aaron Jafferis has graciously directed our attention to the hope that hides behind doubt and the beauty that exists in the telling of our common stories.
A Broken Umbrella Theatre is dedicated to sharing with its audiences, by way of off-the-beaten path, site-specific, and thought-provoking productions, the legends, lore, people, and places that have contributed to the compelling history of New Haven and the lives of those who have long called the city home. A Broken Umbrella Theatre’s original productions have charted, for audiences of all ages, journeys both compelling and captivating, giving faces to those who have informed New Haven’s hidden past, locating the landmarks in which the city’s personality is steeped, and recounting anew the stories that lend character to this place. Taking New Haven as its muse, A Broken Umbrella Theatre has called on community partners to help realize its unique mission, presenting theater that is both intimate and accessible, and introducing us time and again to the previously unfamiliar men and women and the otherwise unnoticed settings that have added intrigue to this, our home.
The 2011 Arts Awards Luncheon is scheduled for Friday, December 2, 2011, at the New Haven Lawn Club, 193 Whitney Ave., New Haven. Call the Arts Council at (203) 772-2788 or visit newhavenarts.orgfor details and ticketing information.