Friday, May 13, 2011

A Meaningful Night at the Kendig Awards

Arts Council's Rhonda Morgan, gadabout Julie Hunsaker and Kendig winner Ernie Zulia.
Me and my cousin SharYn McCrumb, a Kendig winner and a former winner.
Taubman boss David Mickenberg with Rupert Cutler, journalist Gene Marrano.
Emily Sibitzky of AC photos me.
Jim Sears of Center in the Square with Ferrum's John Carlin.
Kendig winner Jason Garnett of Shadowbox and his partner Keri Sink.
My pal Kurt Navratil (left) with Wayne Strickland of the Regional Commission.
Kay Strickland of VWCC with Carolyn Payne, a Grandin Theatre board member.
FRONT columnist Kathy Surace with husband Joe.
Artist Polly Branch with AC Board Chairman Phil Sparks.
Erin Ashwell (left), an attorney at Kendig winner Woods Rogers, and I chat.
(This was initially published May 11 late in the evening after the Kendig Award ceremony. Blogger crashed, erasing it and it has been published again with the later date.)

 At a time when civilized America is watching the Virginia General Assembly and our nation's congress systematically dismantle the arts, it was heartening to see a gathering tonight to celebrate the people and organizations who are jumping into the void to make certain our children have something to enjoy.

Our heritage as a country that loves the arts is in danger these dark days, but you'd not have known it at the Arts Council of the Blue Ridge's annual Perry F. Kendig Awards ceremony at the Taubman Museum of Art in downtown Roanoke. I've been going to these events for years (and have even won a couple of the awards), but have never seen a more impressive and deserving list of honorees, ranging from the obvious (Ernie Zulie, SharYn McCrumb, George Kegley and Nancy Dahlstrom) to a few surprises whose bios and video profiles showed they are incredibly strong choices (Joanne Steele, Douglas Jackson, Jason Garnett of the Shadowbox Community Microcinema). Even the old-line arts organization (Roanoke Symphony) and  supporter (Woods Rogers) were exceptionally strong.

McCrumb (my distant cousin, by the way) has been a star novelist for years and is nearing two dozen novels, most big sellers nationally. That is a huge accomplishment in a field where the book is shrinking. Ernie Zulia has established himself over a number of years in Roanoke--with Mill Mountain Theatre and now with Hollins University--as a powerhouse theatrical director and Nancy Dahlstrom's visual art celebrates the bright side of a sometimes dim world. Jackson and Steele were the real surprises, he for his intense enthusiasm and positive attitude, shed for a dedication to teaching that is rare.

Jason Garnett is one of my favorites because he left a bad situation and turned it into gold with an idea of his own, the Shadowbox, which celebrates local filmmaking. The Symphony's story is one of an almost humdrum success at a time when that is marvelous news and Woods Rogers has been a supporter of the arts since God was a baby.

It will take this, all the people in the room and a whole lot more to overcome the dimwits in our governing bodies who believe the arts is optional and not deeply educational, but tonight, I think we got a commitment. You could see it, perhaps at its best, when AC Executive Director Rhonda Morgan handed the glass remembrance to each winner. There was a deep something in her face that looked like love. I think a lot of people were feeling that warmth for these winners.

(I have spelled Sharyn's name without the Y one too many times and when I stop to capitalize it, I remember it. Yay me.)

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