The Music Center at Strathmore hosted the annual Executive's Awards for Excellence in Arts and Humanities ceremonies on Monday. Those in attendance were treated to an evening which featured performances from many local artists and represented some of the multi-faceted, multi-cultural aspects of the local arts scene. Awards, presented by County Executive Ike Leggett and his wife, Catherine, were also given to many who led local groups, both large and small and to those who organized financial support for the many arts groups in our county.
Two special honors were given: The years of contributions to the arts by the Morris and Gwendolyn Cafritz Foundation -- and the new center they endowed at Montgomery College were showcased by the giving of the Patron Award. All of us in the Metro area have been the beneficiaries of their generosity. A Lifetime Impact Award was given to Carol Trawick. Anyone who knows her is aware of the many organizations (both arts and others) she touches personally with her energies and leadership, our county is richer by knowing her.
The individuals honored for their singular contributions included Ken Rucker for 40 years of volunteerism at the National Capital Trolley Museum, Shizumi Shigeto Manale for her Japanese Dance group, Suzanne Richard for work with the Open Circle Theatre, Eve Burton for her story telling group at the Libraries, and Michel Bobbitt for his work with Adventure Theatre. Tamar Hendel received a Lifetime Achievement Award for her devotion to creative arts and therapeutic art.
County Council members – Council President Nancy Floreen, District 1 Councilmember Roger Berliner, and at-large members George Leventhal and Marc Elrich, also announced the multiple recipients of county arts grants monies, several of whom were present for the festivities. More than 150 groups and individuals were among the awardees of county sponsored grants.
The evening featured several artists in performance -- a Japanese dance company (Shizumi Kodomo Dance Troupe) a South African street dancer performance (Lesole Dance Project), selections from a musical under rehearsal (She Loves Me) by the Damascus Theatre Company, drum based dancers from a highly energized African dance troupe (Sinte) and the combined local folk type group (Jennifer Cuttings OCEAN orchestra and singers from the Washington Revels).
Arts and Humanities Chair, Jacqueline Manger (yes, the wife of our Police Chief) was the Master of Ceremonies; she kept the energy level high and the program for the evening flowing smoothly.
In tough budget times the arts are often left off funding or donation lists, because they are so-called "options." They should not be, because the beauty of music and dance, the delight in art and architecture, the joy in live performances, the written and spoken words that entertain and enrich our souls and ourselves, are integral to the human psyche. These are the skills which set us apart from nature -- the actuality that we as people can create and imagine that which we cannot see or some can see differently than others. These talents are unique and are properly celebrated; they should also be supported with our funds as individual contributors and continued with our county funds as official statements of support, even when budgets are tight. Our county is fortunate to also have corporate sponsors who step up and contribute to this event and the corresponding County Executive Ball for the Benefit of the Arts & Humanities which is held every December and uses no taxpayer dollars.