Legends and Leaders Honored at
Mayors Arts Gala
By Tom McClimon
Attended by over 700 mayors, arts advocates, and corporate sponsors, the third annual Mayors Arts Gala, held the evening of January 27 during the Conference of Mayors Winter Meeting saluted “Legends and Leaders” among the arts world and public office. The gala was co-sponsored with Americans for the Arts.
Conference President Denver Mayor Wellington E. Webb opened the Mayors Arts Gala by welcoming the attendees and stating the while the Gala will honor legends and leaders, “we hope that this event will also encourage all of us to do more to promote the arts among our young people.” Other welcoming remarks were offered by William Lehr, Jr., Chairman of the Governing Board of Americans for the Arts; Robert Lynch, president, Americans for the Arts; and J. Thomas Cochran, executive director, The United States Conference of Mayors.
New Orleans Mayor Marc. H. Morial served as the Gala Co-Chair along with Buzz Bartlett, Vice President for Corporate Affairs at Lockheed Martin. In his remarks, Mayor Morial stressed how the arts are the “creative soul” of America and they need to be “not only preserved , but embraced by all.”
Providence Mayor Vincent A. “Buddy” Cianci, Jr., was honored with the Local Arts Leadership Award. Mayor Cianci was honored for his leadership in spearheading the arts renaissance of this city through such projects as the downtown arts and entertainment district, tax exemptions for artists, river walks, and performing arts centers. In accepting his award, Mayor Cianci paid tribute to former United State Senator Claiborne Pell (RI) for his leadership in creating the National Endowments for the Arts and Humanities; and also paid tribute to the way the arts “empower” communities to become more livable places and children to be better students.
The award for State Arts Leadership was presented to Pennsylvania Governor Tom Ridge who was honored for among other things, increasing funding to the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts by 25 percent and approving more than $30 million in state capital funding for cultural institutions. In his acceptance remarks, Governor Ridge used the example of a state-funded arts project in Damascus, Pennsylvania as an example of how the arts can be used to bring a community together and preserve a community’s cultural heritage.
United States Senator Robert Bennett (UT) was honored with the Congressional Arts Leadership in the United States Senate award. Senator Bennett was honored for his work in supporting federal funding of the arts and for helping to restructure the National Endowment for the Arts. In his remarks, Senator Bennett drew examples as to how the arts bring “refreshment and energy” in ones’ everyday lives.
Congresswoman Nancy Johnson (CT) received the Congressional Arts Leadership in the United States House of Representatives award. Congresswoman Johnson was honored for her work in gaining bipartisan support for the arts and is a founding member of the Congressional Arts Caucus. In accepting her award, Congresswoman Johnson praised the alliance between the mayors and the arts.
The Lifetime Achievement Award for Leadership in the Advancement of the Arts was presented to Dr. John Brademas. President Emeritus of New York University, former Majority Whip of the U.S. House of Representatives and chairman of the President’s Committee on the Arts and Sciences, Dr. Brademas has been one of the nation’s leading champions of the arts and education. In his remarks, Dr. Brademas recognized the strong leadership the mayors have given to the arts and the need for continued public and private support for the arts.
Entertainer and humanitarian Harry Belafonte was honored with the Legendary Artist award. Mr. Belafonte was honored not only for his lifetime accomplishments in music which include a Tony, Emmy, a Kennedy Center Honors, and the National Medal of Arts Award, but also for his advocacy for human rights around the world which includes serving as cultural advisor to the Peace Corps, Goodwill Ambassador for UNICEF, and creator of the USA for Africa and producer of the “We Are the World” concert to benefit African famine relief. In accepting the Legendary Artist award, Mr. Belafonte expressed concern over the loss of culture among the world’s societies; and urged his fellow artists to do more to serve humanity. “The purpose of art is to show life as it should be,” stated Mr. Belafonte. “It is through the arts that we come to know one another.”
Music and entertainment was provided by the Doc Scantlin Orchestra and Jason Cook and Josh Keller from the Walt Whitman High School in Bethesda, Maryland.