2012 Arts Awards Winners

Portraits by Harold Shapiro

2012 C. Newton Schenck III Award for
Lifetime Achievement in and Contribution to the Arts

Carol Ross


In Carol Ross, New Haven’s creative community has a spirited and loyal champion whose remarkable vision has produced meaningful impact. A longtime high-school Latin teacher, she has instilled her students with a compassionate understanding of history and culture. A steadfast arts leader and supporter, she has helped to enhance audiences’ experiences with many memorable performances. As past president of the board of Neighborhood Music School, she chaired and championed a successful capital campaign to renovate the organization’s Audubon Street facility. Through her leadership and philanthropic generosity, she was instrumental in strengthening eight cultural institutions as part of the Greater New Haven Arts Stabilization program. As a board member of the New Haven Museum and Historical Society and the New Haven Symphony Orchestra, and as the current chairperson of the National Guild for Community Arts Education, Carol has reinforced our common belief that the arts represent who we are, not just what we enjoy. Carol is lauded for shepherding us toward a culturally rich and vibrant future.

Helen Kauder


Helen Kauder’s recent return to Artspace has re-established the organization as a tangible manifestation of a belief that artists and their art can foster a pride of place and imbue a community with spirit. This fall, New Haven celebrated the “Crystal Anniversary” of City-Wide Open Studios, the beloved visual-arts festival that each year celebrates and showcases the many remarkable artists who call this magnificent cultural destination home. As one who helped launch that annual event, Helen opened doors to creative opportunity, introduced established and emerging visual artists to new enthusiastic audiences, and invited those from beyond our city’s borders to be part of our yearly appreciation. In difficult times, Helen kept Artspace’s doors from closing, helped stabilize the organization, and positioned it to develop and grow. When Artspace faced more recent challenges exacerbated by the economic downturn, Helen returned from pursuing other career opportunities to steady the organization and reaffirm its value and importance to the local community and beyond.

Ruth M. Feldman


Ruth M. Feldman reminds us that however differently we as individuals experience the arts the universal accessibility of that experience goes a long way toward erasing that which divides us. Over 10 seasons as the Yale Repertory Theatre’s director of education and accessibility services, Ruth has made sure that those among us who are hearing or visually disabled share the profound experience of live theater. It has been Ruth’s steadfast determination that the delivery of these services matches the exceptional quality of the productions being staged and performed. A recipient of the state Bureau of Education and Services for the Blind’s Raymond E. Baldwin Award and the City of New Haven- and Yale University-bestowed Ivy Award, Ruth has grown Yale Repertory Theatre’s audiences to include individuals whose participation might otherwise not have been guaranteed. Whether through running the company’s Will Power! education program, mentoring middle school students through the Dwight Edgewood Project, or educating Yale School of Drama students about the diverse needs of their future audiences, Ruth Feldman has worked tirelessly to make sure that the universal language is understood by those on and off the stage.

Stephen Dest


Through film, Stephen Dest has introduced those beyond New Haven to the fascinating and uncomfortable truths inherent in every community and the motivations of those who call any place home. Stephen’s 1995 documentary The Forgotten Elm explores one local man’s abundant generosity of spirit and exposes our community’s unfilled needs. His short film Blind, which was screened at the 2008 Cannes Film Festival, reflects the melancholy and nostalgia we all experience when we say our final goodbyes to family. His forthcoming narrative feature My Brother Jack celebrates New Haven’s creative community while mining the depths of an artist’s revisited despair. As he’s used that medium to connect us to compelling personalities both real and imagined, Stephen has directed the development of character among our imaginative youth, imparting his knowledge of stage and screen to a new generation of storytellers at Neighborhood Music School and the Tabor Arts Center and ensuring that the craft is in able and ambitious hands.

John Cavaliere


By re-imagining a neglected building into a cultural destination, John Cavaliere has contributed to a neighborhood’s newfound personality and fostered creativity among its prideful residents. What John saw, when he purchased the long-forgotten Westville property that is now home to Lyric Hall Antiques and Conservation, was a future as vital as its past. In a proud proscenium that marked the site of yesterday’s West Rock Theater he saw a frame for tomorrow’s cultural offerings. By salvaging design elements from the erstwhile Hyperion Theater, which itself had been built on the memory of Carll’s Opera House, John offered a nod to the city’s artistic legacy while creating Lyric Hall, an intimate venue and community performance space for innovative theater, concerts, and cabaret in which inspiration knows no age. If, as John has said, the erstwhile West Rock Theater was “ahead of its time,” Lyric Hall has returned to the Westville community the renewed promises of performance and possibility and connected residents to their rich creative history.

Image courtesy of New England Ballet Company.


New England Ballet Company’s Adaptive Nutcracker, with dancers from the Milford Recreation Department’s Merry Musical Theater program, is produced for special-needs performers to introduced audiences and participants alike to the transformative power of one of the most beloved works in the repertoire. In each of the three past years, the organization’s production of Tchaikovsky’s widely adored ballet has featured a cast whose dancers include young people with autism, Down syndrome, and other emotional and physical disabilities. Beyond organizing and presenting its annual “Adaptive Nutcracker,” the New England Ballet has been dedicated to establishing an environment in which dance students mentor their peers with special needs, practicing and rehearsing adapted choreography, and performing Tchaikovsky’s iconic ballet. Ultimately, the New England Ballet has enabled new generations of performing artists to extend to their new friends from the special-needs community a love of dance and the immeasurable joys of artistic expression.

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